Is a bad job worse for mental health than unemployment?

business briefing

In this economy, if there’s one thing we’ve learned to covet, it’s a job that pays the bills – no matter how thankless, how unstable, or how demanding it may be.  After all, any job better than no job at all, right?

Not so fast.  According to a new study, income notwithstanding, having a poor quality job may make you even unhappier than not having a job, reported.

Researchers at Australian National University analyzed surveys from more than 7000 people on how various psychosocial work attributes affect well-being.  They found that jobs with poor psychosocial quality (high demands, low control over decision making, high job insecurity, and an effort-reward imbalance) actually seem to be more detrimental to mental health than unemployment.

People who were unemployed scored an average of 68.5 on a well-being scale, compared to an average score of 75.1 for people who were employed.  However, while staying unemployed only caused a 1 point drop on the scale, taking on a bad job caused a 5.6 point drop.

They also observed that the mental health of people who held the least-satisfying jobs declined the most over time.  The worse the job, the worse the worker’s well-being.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, moving from unemployment to a high quality job was linked with an increase in mental health – a 3.3 point increase on the well-being scale.

The findings suggest that employment is crucial to a person’s mental health, and that rather seeking any new job, people should instead focus on finding new positions that offer more security, autonomy and a reasonable workload.

The study was published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Click here to read more from