Older workers' experiences of depression in the contemporary workplace

Adewunmi, Toyin and Holland, Carol and Simpson, Jane (2021) Older workers' experiences of depression in the contemporary workplace. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

[thumbnail of 2021adewunmiphd]
Text (2021adewunmiphd)
2021adewunmiphd.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial.

Download (3MB)


The past two decades have witnessed an increase in research on the ageing workforce (Boot et al., 2016; Siegrist et al., 2012) due to demographic changes in industrialised nations and increasing numbers of older workers (OWs) (Statistical Office of the European Union (EU) (Eurostat) 2015; Coduti, 2015). An increasing prevalence of depression across the entire working population (World Health Organization [WHO], 2009; Tan et al., 2014), along with its impact on workers and OWs, are causes for concern for individuals, organisations and society (Stynen et al., 2015). This thesis presents a qualitative systematic review, which is concerned with workers’ experiences of work functioning (WF) during and after depression, and an empirical study, which explored OWs’ experiences of depression. For the systematic review, a systematic search of international literature was conducted across five databases. Eleven peer-reviewed qualitative studies, published from 2004 to 2019, that explored experiences of WF among workers during and after depression or common mental disorders were included in the thematic synthesis. Following the quality appraisal, data were extracted and synthesised. The following four overarching themes emerged from the synthesis: Obstacles to work functioning; Challenges of impaired work functioning; Consequences of impaired work functioning; and Promoters of work functioning. The analysis highlights the importance of understanding workers' experiences of work functioning in relation to depression and the coping mechanisms utilised to mask their limitations. The empirical study for this thesis focuses on older workers because of the findings of this thesis’ systematic review and OWs’ vulnerability to involuntary job exclusion (Boot et al., 2016; WHO, 2010). Underpinned by the Healthy Workplaces Model and Framework, this qualitative study aimed to explore OWs' experiences of depression. An interpretive approach was useful in understanding participants' meanings of depression in the contemporary workplace. Following a pilot study, 21 participants who experienced depression at age ≥50 years were recruited through snowballing and purposive sampling from across the UK. A semi-structured in-depth interview was conducted either over Skype, telephone or face-to-face. Thematic analysis was chosen to analyse and interpret the patterns of meaning within the dataset. Data analysis led to the development of three superordinate themes and seven subthemes. The overarching themes are Theme 1 – Disclosure and nondisclosure of depression among OWs; Theme 2 – OWs' struggles during their depression and organisational support interventions; Theme 3 – Future outlook: The importance of work participation during and after depression. This empirical study's significant contribution highlights OWs’ meanings of being diagnosed with depression at age 50 or above and how these meanings influenced their decision about disclosure, nondisclosure, accessing workplace support and future work participation. Organisational culture is a crucial factor for disclosure or nondisclosure among OWs. A salient theme throughout the study was the participants’ desire for work participation and functioning. Further research on organisational and OWs' experiences of depression is recommended.

Item Type:
Thesis (PhD)
?? older workerdepressioncommon mental health disorderwork functionqualitativethematic analysisthematic synthesis ??
ID Code:
Deposited By:
Deposited On:
17 May 2021 09:15
Last Modified:
12 Dec 2023 01:06