Mental health risk for unhappy workers

Nov 18 2005 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Workers who are unhappy in their jobs are more likely to suffer low self-esteem, emotional burnout or become ill, according to new research.

A study of 250,000 people by Lancaster University and Manchester Business School found that job satisfaction has a particular influence on mental health.

People with low job satisfaction were most likely to experience emotional burnout, have reduced self-esteem and suffer from anxiety and depression.

Even a modest drop in job satisfaction could lead to burnout of "considerable clinical importance", the report warned.

Depression and anxiety were now the most common reasons for people starting to claim long-term sickness benefits, overtaking illnesses such as back pain, said the report.

"Employers should seriously look at tackling the consequences of job dissatisfaction and related health problems with innovative policies," said Professor Cary Cooper, of Lancaster University Management School

"This would be a wise investment given the potential substantial economic and psychological costs of unhappy or dissatisfied workers."

He added: "Workers who are satisfied by their jobs are more likely to be healthier as well as happier.

The new research echoes findings from a study carried out in Finland in 2003 which revealed that male workers classed as having low justice in 'decision making procedures' had a 41 per cent higher risk of sickness absence than their 'high justice' equivalents.

There was also evidence of a correlation between sickness absence and poor management style.

Recent research in the UK has also suggested that job satisfaction is one the decline, with fewer than two-thirds of employees happy with their jobs.

A March 2005 study led by Professor Francis Green of the University of Kent, blamed excessive work loads, 'robotic' jobs, a lack of scope for personal initiative for the nation's workplace discontent.

Professor Cooper agreed: "New working practices and technological advances are rapidly changing the way we work. Many jobs are becoming more automated and inflexible," he said.

"Organisations are reducing their permanent workforce and converting to 'outsourcing', which is increasing feelings of job insecurity.

"These trends have contributed to a 'workaholic' culture throughout the UK and Europe - a climate that is impacting negatively in the levels of enjoyment and satisfaction employees gain from their work."