Job Strain, Insecurity Hurt Health

Job Stress Affect Workers' Mental and Physical Health

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on November 04, 2003
From the WebMD Archives

Nov. 4, 2003 -- When job stress and insecurity hit, don't be surprised if your body screams, "I can't work under these conditions!"

A new study shows working under difficult job conditions can take its toll on workers' mental and physical health.

Researchers say it's one of the first studies to look at the impact of the fear of job loss on health and the findings suggest that job insecurity can have potent health effects, both alone and in combination with other types of job stress.

"The results of this study raise concerns about the adverse health effects in people who might be experiencing both high job strain and high job insecurity," write researcher Rennie M. D'Souza of the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at The Australian National University, and colleagues. "As the labor market becomes more globalized and competitive, employees are more likely to encounter these two work conditions simultaneously."

Many Work Under Adverse Conditions

For the study, researchers surveyed 1,188 employee professionals, aged 40 to 44, in Australia and asked them questions about their job conditions as well as depression, anxiety, physical and self-rated health.

They found that adverse working conditions were common among the workers, and 23% reported high job strain, defined as a combination of high work demands and low control. Full-timer workers, those in supervisory positions, and those who worked in large organizations were more likely than others to experience high levels of job strain.

Nearly one-third of the workers also worried about the threat of job loss and uncertainty about future employment with 7.3% and 23% reporting high and moderate job insecurity, respectively. Part-time workers, those who were self-employed, nonmanagers, and those working in smaller organizations were more likely to report high job insecurity.

The findings appear in the November issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Job Conditions Affect Workers' Health

When researchers looked at how these types of job stress related to workers' mental and physical health, they found job strain and insecure employment had a major impact.

Researchers found passive and high-strain jobs were linked to depression, anxiety, and lower self-reported health. Even after adjusting for other factors such as gender, marital status, education, employment status, and major life events, the negative association between job strain and mental health remained significant.

Job insecurity was strongly associated with all four mental and physical health measures, regardless of the other risk factors. The effect was most pronounced on depression and self- reported health.

For example, workers with high job insecurity were four times as likely to suffer from depression.

Researchers say the results show that more study is needed on the influence of job stress on workers' health, especially in light of today's changing global economy.

"The changing nature of work has implications for societies and for workplaces. Both job strain and insecurity are associated with sickness absence, which affects productivity," they write.

Show Sources

SOURCE: D'Souza, R. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, November 2003; vol 57: pp 849-854.

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