As a group, all jobs are not equal. Some jobs are known to have a huge negative impact on our mental health. The world of work can be a stressful place, and it’s not uncommon to see it being highlighted as one of the worst jobs for mental health, alongside the more common jobs like nurse, firefighter, and teacher.
Unhappy? Depressed? Struggling with your mental health? If you’re in a job that makes you feel bad, you might not realize that it has a negative effect on your mental health. That’s why it’s important to look at the job’s potential clues to its effect.
It’s a popular belief that the only way to make a living is to get a job in a field that you love. But when it comes to mental health, that could be a bad idea. In fact, a lot of people are suffering from undiagnosed mental illnesses because of the types of jobs they have. And sadly, the careers with the highest rates of mental health problems are also some of the most common:
As part of Mental Health Month, we asked our readers what mental health issues they are currently facing. We received more than 2,358 responses from dozens of professional groups. Our community tends to be younger (85% are between 18 and 39 years old) and more likely to have six-figure student debt (68% have more than $100,000 in debt). An earlier survey of over 800 readers found that one in 15 young professionals with high student debt had considered suicide because of this burden. Since then, student debt has continued to rise, as have thoughts of suicide: 1 in 14 respondents has had thoughts of suicide. On top of that, we are facing the worst pandemic in 100 years. Scientific publications have pointed to an increased risk of suicide due to the emotional stress of the coronavirus pandemic. With this in mind, we ranked the 10 professions that are collectively most vulnerable to psychological stress due to student debt and the coronavirus pandemic. We’ll also focus on the professions bearing the brunt of student loans and the pandemic.
Heavy mental health care professions
In total, our study assessed hundreds of occupations. To be included in the list below, a profession had to have at least 50 respondents who participated in the survey. We ranked occupations according to the percentage of respondents who reported having serious mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. These are the professions.
Total percentage of dentists reporting psychological distress due to student loans or the pandemic : 91% We found that in the midst of the economic crisis, 56% of dentists lost their income completely. In our community, the average debt of a dental student is $390,000. The typical income for a junior dentist is between $120,000 and $150,000. Many dentists expect their lives to be very stable financially. However, if you graduate with more debt than many people’s mortgages, the burden on you is enormous. These stressors can lead to severe depression and other emotional disorders. Add to that the trend of dentists becoming employees rather than contractors, thanks to corporate dentistry and lower insurance reimbursement rates, and you can see why dentists are 10th on our list.
|Mental health problems reported by dentists|
Sample = 350 dentists
Overall, the percentage of pharmacists reporting psychological distress due to student loans or the pandemic : 93% In our study, pharmacists were among those least economically affected by COVID-19. At the same time, they are psychologically weighed down by student debt, which is often twice as high as the pharmacist’s income at the time of graduation. The average debt of a pharmacist in our community is $227,000. Prior to COVID, the employment outlook for pharmacists was not good. During the pandemic, the number of hours pharmacists worked increased dramatically as Americans stocked up on food, supplies and medications. But in the long run, pharmacists face significant mental health problems after spending years in school and then entering a crowded job market with heavy debt.
|Mental health problems reported by pharmacists|
Sample = 147 pharmacists
Total percentage of nurses reporting psychological distress due to student loans or the pandemic : 93% Nurses are currently struggling, as many are directly involved in patient care and disease management or at greater risk of loss of income than other health professions. In fact, 7% of nurses reported a complete job loss in May 2020 and 23% reported a drop in income. Nurses also face the emotional burden of significant student debt, especially if they have taken an accelerated program beyond the standard BSN degree. All of this, of course, can lead to even more mental health problems, lack of motivation, and other symptoms of severe stress.
|Mental health problems reported by nurses|
Sample = 95 nurses
7. Physician assistant
Total percentage of medical assistants reporting psychological distress due to student loans or the pandemic: 93% Although the rate of suicidal thoughts among PAs was encouragingly low, a very high percentage reported other mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety due to student loans or pandemics. PAs are similar to other mid-level claimants in that they are more likely than physicians to lose their jobs or experience a drop in income, even though they earn less than physicians. Our average AP reader has about $177,000 in student debt. Many people refinance or repay loans in the hope of a steady income. PAs in elective settings are currently under economic pressure, and PAs caring for COVID patients in the workplace are under tremendous emotional pressure, which is why they are 7th on our list.
|Mental health problems reported by HAs|
Sample = 82 medical assistants
Total percentage of optometrists reporting psychological distress due to student loans or the pandemic: 95% Forty-six percent of optometrists surveyed lost their income completely. By May of the following year, this figure had dropped to 21%. Although optometrists are gradually returning to work, the economic impact of the pandemic on the profession has been one of the most severe in our sample. Our average optometrist has about $268,000 in debt and earns between $80,000 and $150,000. Taking on more debt than you deserve definitely increases your risk of depression and suicide. Owning your own practice may have benefits, but the optometric profession has experienced similar business consolidation that is reducing optometrists’ income and increasing student debt. The slow economic recovery has also contributed to economic anxiety among optometrists.
|Mental health problems reported by optometrists|
Sample = 56 optometrists
5. Consultant / Therapist
Total percentage of counselors and therapists reporting psychological distress due to student loans or the pandemic: 95% Although counselors and therapists have not been hit as hard by the economic crisis as other professions, of all the professions surveyed, they are the most likely to have suicidal thoughts. Helping people improve their lives through counseling can be exhausting and the interaction during each session can be exhausting. Counselors and therapists are probably in over their heads right now. The number of calls to suicide hotlines increased during the pandemic, in some cases by a hundredfold. Many counselors and therapists have degrees that they paid for with student debt. The cumulative feeling of being both financially strapped and emotionally exhausted is why counselors and therapists rank fifth on our list.
|Mental health problems reported by counsellors and therapists|
Sample = 60 counselors and therapists
4. non-profit specialist
Total percentage of nonprofit professionals reporting psychological distress due to student loans or pandemic : 96% Donations to charities have fallen and are likely to fall further. In addition, professionals in the nonprofit sector are generally poorly paid, work long hours, and lack access to good health insurance. We found that employees of nonprofit organizations tend to have higher skill and education levels than the general population, which also means they have higher student debt. While nonprofit employees by definition have access to the state’s low interest loan program, the lack of effectiveness of this program leaves many nonprofit employees feeling hopeless about their financial future. Given the additional strain the pandemic puts on the limited resources of nonprofit organizations, it is not surprising that professionals from these organizations are high on the list. There may also be increased levels of depression and anxiety disorders.
|Mental health problems reported by professionals in the nonprofit sector|
Sample = 68 specialists from non-profit organisations
3. Social worker
Total percentage of social workers reporting psychological distress due to student loans or the pandemic : 96% It is very difficult for social workers to leave their offices. We have seen reports that children and women are now more vulnerable to domestic violence or abuse. Working in social services with abused children and others can be very damaging to a person’s mental health. It was also reported that drug and alcohol abuse increased during the pandemic. In today’s America, social workers are on the front lines of social problems while facing low pay. In addition to the occupational hazards, the average social worker has a student debt of about $125,000. This is often due to the fact that many licensed clinical social workers (LCSW) must have a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary of social workers is less than $50,000 per year. High emotional stress at work, low income and very high student debt are the reasons why social workers rank third on our list.
|Mental health problems reported by social workers|
Sample = 53 social workers
Total percentage of psychologists reporting psychological distress due to student loans or the pandemic : 97% Psychologists have one of the highest risks of suicidal thoughts of any profession. They face the same professional risks as social workers and counselors because of the emotional burden they carry. Since many psychologists require a doctorate in psychology to enter the profession, our average psychologist has a student debt of $255,000. Psychologists’ incomes do not match this level of debt, averaging only $70,000 to $90,000.
|Mental health problems reported by psychologists|
Sample = 76 psychologists
Total percentage of veterans reporting psychological distress due to student loans or the pandemic: 98% Vets top our list of the worst professions for mental stress. Veterinarians have not suffered as much from the COVID economic crisis as some of the other professions on this list. In addition, they face enormous emotional pressure in their work when they have to euthanize animals that they could care for but cannot because of the economic constraints of their owners. Veterinarians are often called greedy, but they have huge student debt and earn far less than their equally educated medical colleagues. In fact, the average vet has a student debt of $278,000 on an average income of $80,000 to $100,000. Although vets don’t have suicidal thoughts, they are the most concerned about student loans of all the professions on this list. The next time you see your vet, thank him for his compassion for animals and for what he does. You’ll appreciate it more than you think.
|Mental health problems reported by veterinarians|
Sample = 182 veterinarians
Which professions did we miss?
If your job isn’t on the list, that doesn’t mean you or colleagues you know aren’t struggling with mental health issues. By comparison : Lawyers rank 11th on the list of worst mental health professions, physiotherapists 12th and teachers 13th. One of the best mental health professions is actually a doctor, which surprised me. Based on the results of our survey, we found that physicians.
- More likely, you have a goal in mind right now.
- Less affected by economic consequences than other professions (almost no job losses, only lower wages)
- More possibilities for debt cancellation leading to full repayment of study debt (e.g. forgiveness of loans for public services).
Share your thoughts in the comments about mental health issues in your profession.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Which profession has the highest rate of depression?
We all want to be happy. But when you’re put in a position where it’s expected you’ll be happy and successful, like a teacher or a nurse, it may be hard to keep up those expectations. One explanation for this is that professionals are expected to teach others what they know so they can learn themselves, and that can make them feel like they are less successful. In our modern world, there are many professions that are very stressful, especially those that involve long, irregular working hours and constant need for vigilance and attention to detail.
What is the saddest job?
There are a lot of people out there who are struggling with their jobs. There are also a lot of people out there who are struggling with their lives. But what about those who are struggling with their jobs? There are many kinds of jobs that we might consider mentally stimulating, but one of the most despised is the job of a teacher. Mediocre teachers are constantly put under pressure by students who are in a constant state of unbridled rage, while those who have just been fired for incompetence are left to wonder why they are being treated this way. So, what is it that makes a teacher’s job such a miserable one?
What are the most mentally draining jobs?
As the data continues to pile up, it becomes clear that many jobs are mentally draining. This is especially true for tasks that involve handling the public. What are the most mentally draining jobs? That’s for you to decide. As you consider this list, keep in mind that it isn’t all-inclusive. Thanks to technology, there are now a lot of high-paying jobs that have at least some element of office work, but if you’re a telemarketer, you could be working nonstop from 8AM to midnight. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau, the top 10 most mentally draining jobs are: 1) Telemarketers (8%) 2) Insurance salespeople (6%) 3) Emergency medical technicians (5%) 4) Occupational therapists (5%) 5) Paralegals (5%) 6) Actors (4%) 7) Customer service representatives (4%) 8) Information clerks (4%) 9) Payroll and timekeeping clerks (4%) 10) Lifeguards (4%) ~~
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