Temporary work risks employee mental health

Aug 11 2009 by Barry Wade Print This Article

People lacking stable long-term employment and engaged only on a series of temporary, contract, casual or fixed-term positions are more likely to suffer mental health issues, according to a new study from McGill University in Canada.

Amélie Quesnel-Vallée, a medical sociologist at McGill University and the study's primary investigator, says as long as a person works in what are seen as disposable or second-class jobs they are susceptible to declining mental health.

She says: "This research shows that temporary work strains employee mental health, as contingent workers report more symptoms of depression and psychological distress than similarly employed workers who are not in these fixed-term positions."

Around 5.4million American workers and 1.4million UK workers hold a position they deem as temporary. Across the European Union the figure is over 6million.

The findings should be of "…particular interest for employers as they consider the long-term or global health impact of relying on a contingent workforce to meet current or future employment needs," said Quesnel-Vallée.

Findings from a Canadian medical study released in January also highlighted temporary workers' susceptibility to mental health issues. Job insecurity leads to anxiety and depression, which in turn can lead to other health problems, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health study stated.

Dr Charles Muntaner, who carried out the research, said: "On average, these types of employment conditions give a lot of flexibility to the employer but create a huge amount of insecurity, psychological anxiety and symptoms of depression among the workers because they don't know when they are going to lose their job or when they're going to find another one".

The research stated the mortality rate is higher for part-time and temporary workers than full-time workers, that workers with unsteady jobs were three to four times more likely to develop a form of mental illness, and that job-related stress results in a 50% increased risk of cardiac disease for workers with no job security.