The impact of a bad job on a person’s mental health can be as harmful as having no job at all, latest research has suggested.
A study published online in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine has argued that poorly paid, short-term and poorly supported jobs can have a significant detrimental effect on a person’s mental health.
Yet, because being in work is generally associated with better mental health than unemployment, government policies have tended to focus on the risks posed by joblessness, without necessarily considering the effect that the quality of a job may have.
The study was led by academics at the Centre for Mental Health Research at the Australian National University in Canberra.
The researchers based their findings on seven waves of data from more than 7,000 people of working age, drawn from a representative national household survey conducted every year in Australia.
Not unexpectedly, those who were unemployed had poorer mental health, overall, than those in work, the results showed.
But after taking into account a range of factors with the potential to influence the results, such as educational attainment and marital status, the mental health of those who were jobless was comparable with, or often better than, that of people in work, but in poor-quality jobs.
Those in the poorest-quality jobs experienced the sharpest decline in mental health over time.
There was a direct linear association between the number of unfavourable working conditions experienced and mental health, with each additional adverse condition lowering the mental health score, said the authors.
XpertHR offers advice on how employers can ensure that they are better equipped to manage mental ill health.