Worrying About Losing a Job Affects Health More Than Actually Losing a Job

Having a job is not always better than not having a job. Poor psychological conditions at workplace, uncertainty of holding on to a job, and stressful working conditions have a direct link to deteriorating health.

Previous studies have repeatedly insisted that having a job has a positive effect on health compared with not having a job. However, a new study published in BMC Public Health found that employment doesn’t always guarantee good health. The study found strong evidence that the threat of losing one’s job can pose an adverse health risk for the employed. In simple words, job insecurity harms health even more than unemployment.

The authors conducted searches in the Medline, Embase and PsychInfo databases, then compared health risks for job insecurity and unemployment and studied the quantitative analysis for one or more health outcomes. The purpose of this report was 2-fold:

  • To identify if job insecurity is as damaging to health as unemployment, and
  • To establish whether these associations vary according to different health measures and among men and women.

Among the health outcomes, measures of mental health included anxiety, depression, comfort and enthusiasm. General health related indicators were long-standing illness and number of health problems, hypertension and mortality.

The findings were as follows:

  • In general, job insecurity and unemployment were strongly related to mental health.
  • In contrast, job insecurity was more strongly associated with somatic symptoms (meaning a significant focus on physical symptoms such as pain or tiredness to the point that it causes a lot of emotional distress and obstructs normal functioning)
  • Unemployment had a stronger link to worsening general health and mortality.
  • The link between job insecurity and deteriorating health was found more in men than in women.

Relevance in Today’s Competitive World

The link between unemployment and health has previously been studied several times. It is a widely established fact that joblessness is linked to poorer self-rated health, mental illness, more physical complaints, an increased risk for coronary heart diseases and higher all-cause mortality. On the contrary, it is a popular notion that being employed potentially promotes health.

But that is not always true.

Having a job is not always better than not having a job. Poor psychological conditions at workplace, uncertainty of holding on to a job, and stressful working conditions have a direct link to deteriorating health.

The study stresses on the importance of refined policy interventions to enable reduction of insecure employment. If workers can be guaranteed some certainty of their jobs, it can automatically positively reinforce good health. If workers are in constant fear of being laid off, the long-term implications on health are worse.

“Thus, policies should not only focus on the health risks posed by unemployment, but should also aim at the reduction of job insecurity of the employed,” the authors concluded.