Research shows that unemployment is less detrimental to mental health than having a bad job

When I found myself unemployed, I was understandably quite stressed, with a wife and three kids to support, no savings and no credit cards. But even in my darkest hours, I was still grateful to have moved on. Things have definitely improved for my own mental health now that I have found my dream job, but what about all those other folks out there? Is it better to be unemployed/underemployed or working at a lousy job?

There is a cliché: “The worst day fishin’ beats the best day workin’.” According to Stephen Bevan, Director of the Centre for Workforce Effectiveness, The Work Foundation and Honorary Professor at Lancaster University, one might also say that the worst unemployed still beats the best day at a dead-end job. In an article for the Conversation UK, Bevan states:

Psychosocial job quality involves the degree to which jobs promote control, autonomy, challenge, variety and task discretion. It effects the extent to which work enhances or diminishes our psychological well-being.

There’s a clear link between being engaged in “good work” and mental health. An important contribution to our understanding of this link has come from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey in Australia. It brings together a robust set of data that can be easily compared with other situations such as unemployment. The results, published by Peter Butterworth and colleagues at the Australian National University have global resonance for countries that are serious about developing an understanding of what being “better off” in work really means, beyond narrow economic definitions…

So now we have a slightly different answer to the question about the unemployed being better off in work. Yes they are, as long as they are in good-quality jobs. If they are in bad jobs, there is a perversely strong chance that they will be worse off – especially in terms of their mental health.

Source: The Conversation UK

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