Interim Reports

The Population-Based Longitudinal Study on Work and Health (Ethics ID: E-24467)

--- Third Summary Report ---

Summary of the findings:

Since our last progress report, the team has been examining the need and usage of workplace mental health accommodations in people with depression and/or anxiety and how the use of accommodations affects their outcome. Workplace accommodations are modifications to the work environment, or services that enable people with disabilities to work effectively in their current employment. These accommodations allow individuals to continue working despite their illness and can also assist in the return-to-work process following an extended sick leave. Providing reasonable accommodations has become a legal duty for employers, as reflected in the Employment Equity Act, and the Treasury Board of Canada’s Policy on the Duty to Accommodate Persons with Disabilities in the Federal Public Service.

While employees with a physical illness may need accommodations such as a ramp for wheelchair access, individuals with a mental illness may also need accommodations in different forms. In one of our peer-reviewed publications based on data from this study (for the list publications, please visit: ), Dr. Wang and colleagues reported that among 784 workers with depression and/or anxiety, the top two accommodations needed were “Having weekly meetings between the supervisor and the employee which may help to deal with problems before they become serious” and “Exchanging minor tasks with other employees”.

In a subsequent analysis, we followed participants who had depression and/or anxiety for one year and investigated how receiving workplace mental health accommodations affected their status of depression/anxiety after one year. 715 of the participants with depression/anxiety were interviewed and provided data one year later.  From those interviews we learned that:

  • In participants reporting that they did not need any accommodations, 58.6% had depression/anxiety one year later. In those who received less than half of the accommodations they needed, 53.3% had depression/anxiety. In those participants who received all accommodations needed, 37% had depression/anxiety one year later.
  • In participants who needed and received the accommodation “exchanging minor tasks with other employees”, 25% still had depression/anxiety one year later. In those who did not receive this particular accommodation, 50.6% had depression/anxiety one year later.
  • In participants who needed and received the “modified job duties” accommodation, 30% still had depression/anxiety one year later. In those who did not receive this particular accommodation, 49% had depression/anxiety one year later.

The results obtained thus far have shown that receiving needed workplace mental health accommodations was associated with better outcomes for mental disorders. The accommodations are generally simple and inexpensive to employ and would be a beneficial way for employers to improve the workplace for employees with mental health concerns. These results will be published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

What is the next step?

The results described above are what we have gathered thus far based on the information that you have provided. We will present the results to relevant policy makers and other stakeholders so that we can work together to improve the work environment in Alberta. If you have any comments and suggestions about the ways of improving work environment and employees’ mental health please feel free to email me.

We have been actively engaging government policy makers and employer organizations to disseminate the results and raise the awareness on the influence of work environment on employees’ health. If possible, please share the results with your family, friends, colleagues, and employers.

The research team is grateful for your participation. Your continued participation is the key to generating valid results.

If you have any comments on the study and questions regarding the results and/or your participation, please feel free to contact me at (403) 210-8653 or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Thank you very much!

JianLi Wang