Interacting with the public as a risk factor for employee psychological distress

Hilton, Michael F. and Whiteford, Harvey A. (2010) Interacting with the public as a risk factor for employee psychological distress. BMC Public Health, 10 435 - 1-435 - 7. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-435

Author Hilton, Michael F.
Whiteford, Harvey A.
Title Interacting with the public as a risk factor for employee psychological distress
Journal name BMC Public Health   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1471-2458
Publication date 2010-07
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1186/1471-2458-10-435
Open Access Status DOI
Volume 10
Start page 435 - 1
End page 435 - 7
Total pages 7
Place of publication London, United Kingdom
Publisher BioMed Central
Collection year 2011
Language eng
Formatted abstract

The 1-month prevalence of any mental disorder in employees ranges from 10.5% to 18.5%. Mental disorders are responsible for substantial losses in employee productivity in both absenteeism and presenteeism. Potential work related factors contributing to mental difficulties are of increasing interest to employers. Some data suggests that being sales staff, call centre operator, nurse or teacher increases psychological distress. One aspect of these occupations is that there is an interaction with the public. The aim of this study is to evaluate whether employees who interact with the public are at greater risk of psychological distress.


Data was collected from two studies. In study one 11,259 employees (60% female; mean age 40-years ± SD 10-years) from six employers responded to the Health and Work Performance Questionnaire (HPQ) which contained a measure of psychological distress, the Kessler 6 (K6). Employees were coded as to whether or not they interacted with the public. Binomial logistic regression was performed on this data to determine the odds ratio (OR) for moderate or high psychological distress in employees that interacted with the public. Study two administered the HPQ and K6 to sales employees of a large Australian bank (N = 2,129; 67% female; mean age 39-years SD 10-years). This questionnaire also probed how many contacts individuals had with the public in the past week. Analysis of variance was used to determine if the number of contacts was related to psychological distress.


In study one the prevalence of psychological distress in those that interacted and did not interact with the public were 19% and 15% respectively (P < 0.001). Interacting with the public was associated with an increased OR of 1.3 (P < 0.001) for moderate to high levels of psychological distress. In study two employees with less than 25 contacts with the public per week had a lower K6 score than those who had ≥ 25 contacts per week (P = 0.016).


The results of the current study are indicative that interaction with the public increases levels of psychological distress. Employees dealing with the public may be an employee subgroup that could be targeted by employers with mental health interventions.  © 2010 Hilton and Whiteford; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.
Keyword Mental-health
Screening scales
Economic Burden
School teachers
Mood Disorders
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ
Additional Notes Article number 435, pp. 1-7

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2011 Collection
School of Public Health Publications
Version Filter Type
Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 6 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
Scopus Citation Count Cited 7 times in Scopus Article | Citations
Google Scholar Search Google Scholar
Created: Sun, 03 Oct 2010, 00:07:44 EST