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Vicki Salemi

Having a Bad Job Is Worse for Mental Health Than No Job At All

Research shows bad jobs create worse mental state than unemployment.

Overworked and underpaid.

According to a study published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine , researchers from the Australian National University concluded that people with poor-quality jobs (i.e., high demands, low control over decision-making, high job insecurity and an imbalance regarding effort and their rewards), actually experienced worse mental health than those who were jobless.

Results from a seven year study showed that although unemployed people experienced significantly poorer mental health than people who were employed, they actually experienced superior mental health compared to people who had a job with very poor quality. Furthermore, the mental health of people in low-satisfying jobs continued to deterioriate over time.

In the study participants indicated how strongly they agreed to statements such as "I worry about the future of my job" and "My job is complex and difficult."

Essentially, the study showed how the quality of a job predicts the quality of the employee's mental health as the two are inextricably intertwined. According to Peter Butterworth, Ph.D., lead author in the study and senior research fellow at the Centre for Mental Health Research at the Australian National University, "Moving from unemployment to a poor-quality job offered no mental health benefit, and in fact was more detrimental to mental health than remaining unemployed."

Overall, he notes people who couldn't find a job had a healthier mental state of mind than people who were newly employed and felt overwhelmed, insecure, underpaid and micromanaged. Butterworth adds, "This runs counter to a common belief that any job offers psychological benefits foro individuals over the demoralizing effects of unemployment."