Academic journal article The Economic and Labour Relations Review : ELRR

Job Insecurity and Mental Health Outcomes: An Analysis Using Waves 1 and 2 of HILDA

Academic journal article The Economic and Labour Relations Review : ELRR

Job Insecurity and Mental Health Outcomes: An Analysis Using Waves 1 and 2 of HILDA

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

The existing literature on the nexus between labour markets and mental health outcomes focuses on the negative effects of unemployment on an unemployed individual's physical and mental health outcomes. Loss of employment can have significant negative financial and social impacts (e.g., loss of social status and social support networks), which in turn result in a deleterious impact on personal health and wellbeing. In terms of mental health outcomes, unemployed individuals may experience or exhibit increased depressive symptoms, decreased perceptions of competence, decreased self-esteem, a higher risk of suicide and higher levels of abusive behaviour toward others (Price, Friedland, Choi and Caplan 1998).

Mathurs and Schofield's (1998) informative summary of the Australian medical literature relating to the impact of unemployment on mental health outcomes supports the hypothesis that unemployment causes deterioration in mental health and wellbeing outcomes among those affected. The extent of that deterioration may be dramatic. Morell, Taylor, Quine and Kerr (1993) and Morrell, Taylor and Kerr (1998), for example, provide evidence that unemployment is a predisposing factor that increases the risk of suicide, especially in males. O'Brian, Feather and Kabanoff (1994) report that unemployed Australian youth experience higher levels of depression, lower life satisfaction and lower levels of perceived competence than youth in employment (see also Morrell, Taylor, Quine, Kerr and Western 1994). Using evidence from both the 1995 National Health Survey and the 1997 Mental Health Survey, Flatau et al. (2000) provide evidence of a significant inverse relationship between unemployment and mental health outcomes across all age cohorts using both general self-assessed measures of wellbeing and specific mental health diagnoses of depression and nerves, nervousness, tension. In a longitudinal design, Kennedy (2003) examined the effect of labour force status on the mental health of immigrants and found that causality ran from unemployment to mental health rather than the reverse. Interestingly, Winklemann and Winklemann (1998) conclude that the non-pecuniary impact of unemployment has much more severe effects on 'life satisfaction' than the pecuniary effect. There is also evidence to suggest that there is an adjustment to unemployment so that the long-term unemployed are less unhappy than the short-term unemployed (Clarke and Oswald 1994).

The unsurprising general conclusion from these studies, therefore, is that unemployment adversely impacts on mental health outcomes. What remains to be determined, however, is the impact that job insecurity among the employed may have on mental health outcomes. This is the focal point of the present paper. Job insecurity involves fundamental and involuntary changes regarding the safety and continuity of an individual's employment. In other words, job insecurity involves perceived uncertainty concerning the continuation of employment or features of the job (Hellgren, Goslinger, Chirumbolo, De Witte, Naswall and Sverke 2000).

The effect of job insecurity on mental health outcomes in Australia is examined in this paper using the Housing, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey Waves 1 and 2. This survey includes two measures of job insecurity together with self-reported mental health and wellbeing scales. HILDA'S panel design allows for the examination of changes over time in labour market conditions and mental health outcomes. We examine the impact of job insecurity on mental health and well being outcomes using cross section regression models and a differenced regression model which makes full use of the longitudinal feature of HELD A. The cross section models provide an analysis of the relationship between job security and mental health at a given point in time. They also allow the testing of stability of this relationship over time in separate cross-section regressions of Wave 1 and Wave 2. …

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