The Effects of Employment on Mental Health

The World Health Organization released a report this past fall on the social determinants of health. They cited research from Dr. Carles Muntaner of Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. Dr. Muntaner’s research showed significant mental health consequences for people who were “precariously” employed (i.e., people with temporary or part time contracts with low wages and no benefits) as opposed to people who had full-time work with benefits. In addition, stress at work was associated with a 50% increase in heart disease. Stress at work has consistently been associated with jobs that have high demands, low control and an imbalance between the effort that one expends and the rewards received. This stress is linked to increased level of anxiety, depression and drug abuse. In addition, there is research indicating that a 2% rise in unemployment translates into 1 million more acts of crime in the U.S. Research also indicates that unemployment tends to lead to greater mental health consequences for men than women and for blue collar workers more than white collar ones.

The recent economic recession is making this research particularly relevant. Over the past twelve months, the number of unemployed people in the U.S. has increased from 6 million to over 13 million. 

Mental health advocates, workers and government need to work together to mitigate the negative mental health impacts on unemployment as the economy continues to stumble. Retraining, insurance programs, referral to support groups and mental health resources should all be considered. At the same time, as unemployment rises, there are increased demands on those still working. However, the increased stress on working people can be relieved, to some extent, by giving workers more control and decision-making power within their work environment. 

What are your feelings on the subject? Have you experienced negative mental health consequences are a results of unemployment? Are you under increased stress at work due to the increased pressures brought about by the current economic environment? Leave us a comment. 

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