Background: The present study aimed to examine the association between the presence/absence of help-seeking behavior (ie, behavior aimed at obtaining assistance from others to improve a situation or problem) and psychological distress among private and public employees by age group using a nationally representative sample of the Japanese population.
Methods: The present study analyzed data obtained from the 2016 Comprehensive Survey of Living Conditions, a nationwide cross-sectional survey. Of 568,426 participants, 78,284 private and public employees aged 20 to 59 years, who were receiving no mental health services at the time of the survey and reported at least one stressor in daily life, were eligible. The primary outcome measure was self-rated psychological distress as measured by the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale. Multiple logistic regression analyses were carried out separately by age group, adjusting for sociodemographic and job/life-related factors.
Results: The proportion of participants not showing help-seeking behavior was significantly higher among those aged 40–59 years compared to those aged 20–39 (30.5% and 22.7%, respectively; P < 0.001). Participants without help-seeking behavior had significantly higher odds ratios (ORs) for psychological distress, regardless of age group (OR = 1.9 [95% confidence interval (CI), 1.6–2.0] and OR = 1.6 [95% CI, 1.4–1.7] for the age 20–39 years and 40–59 years groups, respectively), compared to those showing help-seeking behavior.
Conclusions: Participants not showing help-seeking behavior were more likely to have severe psychological distress, and this trend appeared to be slightly stronger among those aged 20–39 years. These findings suggest that promoting help-seeking behavior is important for improving mental health among workers.