People With High Job Insecurity Three Times More Likely To Suffer From Anxiety And Depression


A new study, published in Science Direct, looked at how different dimensions of precarious work affect mental health.

“This is a study analyzing the relationship between job insecurity and mental health in a Spanish area (the Basque Country),” study author Erika Valero told us. “Prior to starting the study, we conducted a systematic review on this topic, available in the International Journal of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health, in which we identified numerous publications in the European context that have highlighted the impact of job insecurity on psychological health in recent decades using different types of indicators to measure uncertainty. Therefore, and given the importance of paid work as a social determinant of health, we anticipated that this issue might also be related to mental health in our context.”

Consistent with the idea outlined above, researchers have long known that gainful employment is an important social determinant of health. It should be borne in mind that most communities and families depend on the livelihoods they derive from the sale of their labour. Furthermore, in most societies, work is not only the main basis of livelihood, but also an important source of personal development and identity. In addition to these premises, the researchers also considered that work is one of the activities that working people spend most of their time doing.


“All this means, as I explained at the beginning, that paid work, its characteristics, its contractual basis and the conditions under which it is practiced, have a major impact on the quality of life and health of individuals and families,” said Valero. “Our research team is dedicated to exploring social inequalities in health and the social determinants of health. In this sense, and considering that job insecurity is more widespread in Spain than in other European countries and wage levels are lower, we understood the importance of addressing this issue.”

For the study, the researchers used the 2018 Basque Country Health Survey, a survey conducted every four years that they are very familiar with, having used it for numerous studies. The particularity of the 2018 edition is that it includes, for the first time, a reduced version of a multidimensional scale measuring job insecurity (EPRES-Employment precariousness scale), developed by a Catalan research team with a long tradition in researching job insecurity and its impact on health.

“For our study, we looked at the employed population aged 16-65 (with a total sample of 3345 cases) and used statistical models to measure the relationship between job insecurity in general and mental health, and each of the dimensions that make it up Increase this scale separately to see if some dimensions are more closely associated with poorer mental health outcomes,” Valero said.

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Mental health was measured using a validated instrument, the MHI-5, which identifies the presence of symptoms of anxiety and depression. In addition, all analyzes were stratified by gender, as it is important to analyze the problem from a gender-sensitive perspective.

“First, we found that both men and women with high levels of job insecurity were generally more than three times more likely to experience symptoms of anxiety or depression than those who did not experience job insecurity,” Valero said. “Furthermore, the association between job insecurity and mental health was maintained even when the statistical models were adjusted for other variables such as educational attainment or socioeconomic status.”

This means that even when one neutralizes the effect of the latter factors, job insecurity still appears to have a negative impact on workers’ mental health. On the other hand, the researchers found that some dimensions appeared to have a greater impact on the health of precarious workers, such as B. Wage levels or vulnerability, measured by indicators that identify workers’ fear of reprisals for demanding better working conditions or feelings of helplessness in the face of unfair treatment by employers.


“Given the available scientific evidence, we assumed that in our context, job insecurity would also be associated with poorer mental health indicators,” Valero said. “However, we found that the likelihood of suffering from anxiety or depression among precarious workers is actually high.”

Furthermore, these odds remained significantly high even when the effects of other socioeconomic positional variables were neutralized, confirming what was said earlier about the centrality of paid work. Findings also underscore the need to address some dimensions of precarious work, such as B. wage levels and vulnerability to pay special attention to combat this problem.

“In our context, it has been very common for policy discourse and action to focus on the problem of unemployment, and only in recent years have we started to address job insecurity as well,” Valero said. Of course, it is important to facilitate access to the labor market, but also to ensure that employment conditions and wage levels are reasonable. We live in complex systems, but we know that societies in general have achieved great wealth-generating capacity, which means the means are in place to ensure everyone has a decent quality of life.”

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In terms of employment, Valero explained, this means that governments and companies must protect working people, ensure that they carry out their work in a safe environment and that this activity gives them access to the essential goods for a dignified life . Some formulas for achieving these goals could include raising minimum wages, expanding labor inspection to ensure compliance with labor rights and regulations, representing unions and supporting vulnerable workers, particularly in sectors with low union membership.

“The notion that health in general, and mental health in particular, is a condition that does not depend solely on the biological or genetic characteristics of humans, but is also strongly conditioned by the social environment in which people live and develop, in addition to lifestyle.” us Valero. “These environments can be conducive to maintaining optimal health, but they can also pose a significant risk to it. Work is thus, along with many other social factors besides social class, gender, environmental characteristics or housing conditions, an essential aspect that must be taken into account when assessing the possibilities or chances of people to enjoy better or worse health. So let us realize that improving the health of individuals and peoples can depend not only on ensuring access to quality health systems, but also on promoting a healthy social environment that offers opportunities for the development of a dignified life.”

Categories: Anxiety , Coping , Depression | Keywords: anxiety, depression, coping


Patricia Tomasi is a mother, maternal mental health advocate, journalist and public speaker. A regular contributor to The Huffington Post Canada, she focuses primarily on maternal mental health, having twice suffered from severe postpartum anxiety. Her Huffington Post bio can be found here. Patricia is also Patient Expert Advisor for the North America based Maternal Mental Health Research Collective and Founder of the online peer support group – Facebook Postpartum Depression & Anxiety Support Group – with over 1500 members worldwide. Blog:


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