Badly paid jobs can be worse for mental health than no job at all


HAVING A poor quality or poorly paid job can be worse for one’s mental health than having no job at all, new research has found.

A study of more than 7,000 people of working age in Australia assessed respondents’ mental health and asked them about their employment status.

After taking account of a range of factors with the potential to influence the results, such as educational attainment and marital status, the researchers found the mental health of those who were jobless was comparable to – 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.

Getting a high quality job after being unemployed improved mental health by an average of three points, but getting a poor quality job was more detrimental than remaining unemployed, showing up as a loss of 5.6 points.

The authors of the study, published online in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, a BMJ title, say paid work confers several benefits, including a defined social role and purpose, friendships and structured time. But jobs which afford little control, are very demanding and provide little reward are not good for health.

Dr Moosajee Bhamjee, a consultant psychiatrist based in Ennis, Co Clare, said the results of the study weren’t surprising. “I’d say if people are unhappy in their work, they should leave or change jobs. Even though times are difficult, it’s better to leave an unhappy job,” he said. “Give it up, move on, and look for alternatives.”

He said many young people were now under stress because they had chosen the wrong college courses as a result of “poor career guidance”. There was also an increased level of bureaucracy and bullying in the workplace, he said.