The relationship between mental disorder, occupation type and family demands

Categories: Blogs, Data Insights, ADR Northern Ireland, Health & wellbeing

Written by Finola Ferry 4 September 2020


In 2017, the UK government announced a new strategy to tackle mental health policy and practice at work, commissioning a review of how companies across the UK support mental health at work. The review report, ‘Thriving at Work’ (2017), outlines a set of ‘core standards’ that should be adopted by all UK companies, including the implementation of a ‘mental health at work plan’. Using administrative data on prescriptions and the Northern Ireland (NI) Census, our research team provide insights into this area, exploring mental health disorders across occupation types and the influence of family demands.

We linked Census data to Enhanced Prescribing Data and examined self-reported mental disorder lasting at least 12 months and any psychotropic medication use among workers in NI within a 12-month period. We examined the rates of mental disorder across Standard Occupational Classifications (SOCs) and how family demands might influence these. Findings are based on workers aged 18-59 at the time of the 2011 NI Census.

Overall, 2.87% had self-reported mental health problems lasting 12 months, while 17% of workers used psychotropic medication at some point over a 12-month period. Medication use was generally higher among females. We found high rates of self-reported mental disorder among ‘transport and mobile machine operatives’ (3.71%) and the highest rates of psychotropic medication use among ‘caring, personal service occupations’ (25.46%). Initial analysis suggests that family demands may play an important role, with psychotropic medication use more likely among lone parents. Interestingly, we found that informal caregiving was associated with reduced likelihood of self-reported mental disorder, but increased likelihood of psychotropic medication use.

We hope that this Data Insight provides an initial step in understanding variation in mental health across occupations and the role of family demands. Our team hope to undertake more in-depth analysis of ‘risky’ occupations and ultimately inform the development of tailored mental health at work plans and other policies to improve wellbeing at work.

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