Does adolescent depression modify the association between psychosocial job stressors and mental health in emergent adulthood?

Anthony D. LaMontagne, Lay San Too, Katrina Witt, Tracy Evans-Whipp, Patrick J. Owen, John W. Toumbourou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Background: Job stressors can be particularly harmful to the mental health of disadvantaged groups through differential exposure, differential sensitivity to the effects of exposure, or both. In this paper, we assess the extent to which emergent adult workers with an adolescent history of high depression symptoms may be differentially sensitive to the effect of job stressors on mental health. Methods: We conducted a secondary analysis of three waves of the Australian arm of the International Youth Development Study (n = 1262). We used multivariable linear regression to assess whether self-reported measures of high depression symptoms at one or two time points in adolescence (ages 11–16 years) modified the cross-sectional association between four self-reported job stressors (job demands, job control, job strain, and incivility at work) and psychological distress (Kessler-10 scores) in emergent adulthood (ages 23–27 years). Results: For all four job stressors, there was a consistent pattern of approximately a doubling in the magnitude of association for participants with a history of high depression symptoms at two points in adolescence compared with those with no history of depression. However, results of effect modification analysisfor only job demands and job strain excluded chance as a potential explanation. Conclusions: Findings showed partial support for the hypothesis that a history of high depression symptoms in adolescence predicts stronger associations between job stressor exposures and psychological distress among those employed in emergent adulthood. The limitations of this secondary analysis suggest a need for purpose-designed studies to answer this important research question more definitively.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-54
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Journal of Industrial Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • depression
  • depression symptoms
  • emergent adults
  • job stressors
  • Kessler-10
  • psychosocial work environment

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