Aug. 27, 2009
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Persistent job insecurity poses a major threat to worker health, according to a new study published in the September issue of the peer-reviewed journal Social Science and Medicine.
The study used long-term data from two nationally representative sample surveys of the U.S. population to assess the impact of chronic job insecurity apart from actual job loss.
"Dramatic changes in the U.S. labor market have weakened bonds between employers and employees and fueled perceptions of job insecurity," said University of Michigan sociologist Sarah Burgard, a research assistant professor at the U-M Institute for Social Research. "This study provides the strongest evidence to date that persistent job insecurity has a negative impact on worker health. In fact, chronic job insecurity was a stronger predictor of poor health than either smoking or hypertension in one of the groups we studied."
"It may seem surprising that chronically high job-insecurity is more strongly linked with health declines than actual job loss or unemployment," said Burgard, who is also affiliated with U-M's Department of Sociology and School of Public Health. "But there are a number of reasons why this is the case. Ongoing ambiguity about the future, inability to take action unless the feared event actually happens, and the lack of institutionalized supports associated with perceived insecurity are among them."