The Epidemic of Mental Disorders in Business-How Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Spread across Organizations through Employee Mobility

Julia M. Kensbock, Lars Alkaersig, Carina Lomberg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Combining management research with infectious disease epidemiology, we propose a new perspective on mental disorders in a business context. We suggest that—similar to infectious diseases—clinical diagnoses of depression, anxiety, and stress-related disorders can spread epidemically across the boundaries of organizations via social contagion. We propose a framework for assessing the patterns of disease transmission, with employee mobility as the driver of contagion across organizations. We empirically test the proposed mental disorder transmission patterns by observing more than 250,000 employees and more than 17,000 Danish firms over a period of 12 years. Our findings reveal that when organizations hire employees from other, unhealthy organizations (those with a high prevalence of mental disorders), they “implant” depression, anxiety, and stress-related disorders into their workforces. Employees leaving unhealthy organizations act as “carriers” of these disorders regardless of whether they themselves have received a formal diagnosis of a mental disorder. The effect is especially pronounced if the newcomer holds a managerial position.
Original languageEnglish
Article number00018392211014819
Number of pages48
JournalAdministrative Science Quarterly
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 May 2021

Keywords

  • mental disorders
  • contagion
  • epidemic
  • employee mobility
  • PSYCHOSOCIAL WORK-ENVIRONMENT
  • HUMAN-RESOURCE MANAGEMENT
  • AGE-OF-ONSET
  • EMOTIONAL CONTAGION
  • LEARNED HELPLESSNESS
  • JOB DEMANDS
  • NEWCOMER SOCIALIZATION
  • ATTACHMENT ANXIETY
  • SOCIAL NETWORKS
  • SELF-EFFICACY

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