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PLoS One. 2014 Jul 30;9(7):e103501. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0103501. eCollection 2014.

Hell is other people? Gender and interactions with strangers in the workplace influence a person's risk of depression.

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Innovation Incubator, Leuphana University Lueneburg, Lüneburg, Germany.
Innovation Incubator, Leuphana University Lueneburg, Lüneburg, Germany; Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, Psychiatric Hospital, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland; Institute of Psychiatry, Laboratory of Neuroscience, University of Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil.


We suggest that interactions with strangers at work influence the likelihood of depressive disorders, as they serve as an environmental stressor, which are a necessary condition for the onset of depression according to diathesis-stress models of depression. We examined a large dataset (N = 76,563 in K = 196 occupations) from the German pension insurance program and the Occupational Information Network dataset on occupational characteristics. We used a multilevel framework with individuals and occupations as levels of analysis. We found that occupational environments influence employees' risks of depression. In line with the quotation that 'hell is other people' frequent conflictual contacts were related to greater likelihoods of depression in both males and females (OR = 1.14, p<.05). However, interactions with the public were related to greater likelihoods of depression for males but lower likelihoods of depression for females (ORintercation = 1.21, p<.01). We theorize that some occupations may involve interpersonal experiences with negative emotional tones that make functional coping difficult and increase the risk of depression. In other occupations, these experiences have neutral tones and allow for functional coping strategies. Functional strategies are more often found in women than in men.

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