News Release

Job insecurity affects mental health

According to a study by the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country, job insecurity, understood from a multidimensional perspective, is associated with poor mental health

Peer-Reviewed Publication

University of the Basque Country

A study conducted by the Opik group on Social Determinants of Health and Demographic Change has analysed the relationship between job insecurity, measured by dimensions and as a multidimensional index, and the mental health of wage-earning men and women in the Basque Country. “We believe that job insecurity needs to be addressed from this more multidimensional perspective; otherwise, you may leave out many things that could be job insecurity and which are not being analysed," said Erika Valero-Alzaga, one of the group’s researchers.

In order to address job insecurity from a multidimensional perspective and to understand the relative importance of each of its dimensions, the research was based on the EPRES job insecurity scale, which consists of six dimensions: impermanence, wages, disempowerment, vulnerability, rights and capacity to exercise rights. So each of the dimensions that comprise it was analysed separately, in order to identify those that potentially exert the greatest impact on health, based on a sample of the 2018 Basque Autonomous Community Health Survey.

According to the findings of this study, job insecurity is significantly associated with poor mental health in both men and women. “We saw that there were some dimensions that appear to exert a greater impact than others on mental health,” said Valero. Wage level among both sexes, or vulnerability among women appear to be significantly and independently related to a poorer mental health status. “Interestingly, one of the most striking features of the Spanish labour market is its impermanence. We can see that if we neutralise the effect of other variables, such as educational attainment or socioeconomic status, this variable per se does not seem to affect mental health,” said the UPV/EHU researcher. “This may be due to the fact that in some sectors with high temporary employment rates in our context, for example in part of the public sector, this situation is not always experienced coupled with a high degree of uncertainty about job continuity, which does not mean that efforts should not be made to stabilise workforces.”

Ensuring access to decent employment and adequate wage levels

Socio-economic and political transformations “have resulted in a significant deterioration in the quality of employment and a transfer of risks and insecurity from employers to workers. Moreover, job insecurity is not evenly distributed across the working population,” said Valero. Women tend to be in lower quality jobs, have fewer permanent contracts than men, have lower wage levels and are over-represented in part-time jobs. Similarly, job insecurity is more concentrated among young people and those with a lower socio-economic status. “Job insecurity has hugely significant negative effects on mental health, so considering the impact that work in general (paid work and domestic and care work) has on people's lives, it should be a priority at the policy level,” added Valero. “So far, the concern has been to end unemployment, as it has also been seen to exert a negative impact on health; but it is not only about ensuring access to employment, but also about ensuring access to decent employment and adequate wage levels.”

The researcher takes the view that, “the results of this study, based on a large, representative sample of the wage-earning population in the Basque Country, could help to identify the most unfavourable aspects of job insecurity for mental health and thus implement various socio-political measures to deal with them”. However, the researcher acknowledged that this is a cross-sectional study that “prevents us from establishing a causality principle between job insecurity and mental health”, and stressed the need to “promote further research to adapt and analyse the EPRES scale in self-employed workers, as well as in people who do not have an employment contract”.

Bibliographical reference

Erika Valero, Mireia Utzet, Unai Martín
¿Cómo afectan las distintas dimensiones de la precariedad laboral a la salud mental?
Gaceta Sanitaria
DOI: 10.1016/j.gaceta.2021.11.006


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