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The research was led by Australian mental health research unit the Black Dog Institute, which says mental illness costs Australian businesses bn a year (?6bn).

Lead author, associate professor Samuel Harvey, said the findings are 'a wake-up call'.

To judge how strenuous someone's the researchers asked people about their ability to make decisions at work, the opportunity to use their skills, and about the pace, intensity and conflicting demands they experience at work.

Professor Harvey said: 'The results indicate that if we were able to eliminate job strain situations in the workplace, up to 14 percent of cases of common mental illness could be avoided.

'Workplaces can adopt a range of measures to reduce job strain, and finding ways to increase workers' perceived control of their work is often a good practical first step.

'This can be achieved through initiatives that involve workers in as many decisions as possible.'

How the research was carried out

The Black Dog Institute examined records of 6,870 people from the UK National Child Development Study, all of whom were born in the same week in 1958.

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