BACKGROUND: This study aims to elucidate the interplay between borderline personality symptoms and working conditions as a pathway for impaired work performance among workers in the general population.
METHODS: Cross-sectional data from the Netherlands Mental Health Survey and Incidence Study-2 (NEMESIS-2) were used, including 3672 workers. Borderline personality symptoms were measured with the International Personality Disorder Examination (IPDE) questionnaire. Working conditions (decision latitude, psychological job demands, job security and co-worker support) were assessed with the Job Content Questionnaire (JCQ). Impaired work performance was assessed as total work loss days per month, defined as the sum of days of three types of impaired work performance (inability to work, cut-down to work, and diminished quality at work). These were assessed with the WHO Disability Assessment Schedule (WHO-DAS). Common mental disorders (CMD) were assessed with the Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI).
RESULTS: Number of borderline personality symptoms was consistently associated with impaired work performance, even after controlling for type or number of adverse working conditions and co-occurrence of CMD. Borderline personality symptoms were associated with low decision latitude, job insecurity and low co-worker support. The relationship between borderline personality symptoms and work performance diminished slightly after controlling for type or number of working conditions.
CONCLUSIONS: The current study shows that having borderline personality symptoms is a unique determinant of work performance. This association seems partially explained through the impact of borderline personality symptoms on working conditions. Future studies are warranted to study causality and should aim at diminishing borderline personality symptoms and coping with working conditions.