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Objective: To explore a possible causal relationship between psychosocial work characteristics and mental health.

Methods: Using longitudinal data from the Maastricht Cohort Study on "Fatigue at Work" (n = 2332), the effects of changes in job demands and decision latitude on subsequent changes in need for recovery and prolonged fatigue were studied.

Results: Increasing job demands are a significant predictor of a subsequent increase in need for recovery ([beta] = 0.063) and prolonged fatigue ([beta] = 0.057). An increase in decision latitude predicted a subsequent decrease in need for recovery ([beta] = -0.078) and prolonged fatigue ([beta] = -0.063). After adjusting for changes in other work characteristics, the effects on changes in prolonged fatigue were no longer significant.

Conclusion: These findings support a possible causal relationship between work characteristics and mental health and can be used for designing effective prevention and intervention strategies.

(C)2007The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine