The financial crisis has not only led to a high rate of unemployment, but it’s also made a lot of people depressed: Jobless, broke, and without economic opportunity, we assume that this is as bad as it gets. But according to new research, bad jobs can be worse for your mental health than unemployment.
Researchers at the Australian National University analyzed seven years worth of labor survey data from over 7,000 people, looking for connections between psychosocial work attributes and mental health. Though workers are generally happier than their unemployed peers, those with bad jobs – in which they have high demands, little control over decisions, low job security, and poor rewards – were actually less happy than those without a job at all. And on average, even people who transitioned from unemployment to bad employment saw their measure of happiness drop.
While it’s not surprising that a bad job could give you the blues (we’ve all been there), it should be fairly shocking that a bad job is worse for your well-being than no job at all. Of course, we didn’t need a study to tell us that we should all be hunting for great jobs instead of bad jobs, and unfortunately, we’re not in an economy where the majority of people can be choosy. But the study can be helpful in two ways:
1) For employers and companies: Providing good quality jobs will make for happier employees, which, in the long run, means lower costs (covering the health costs and sick days of a depressed, unhealthy worker isn’t cheap), higher productivity (happier employees = more productive employees), and a better business overall. This means real money in your pockets, not just the heart-warming reward of knowing your employees like you.
2) For those who are unhappily employed: Unfortunately, researchers don’t back up their studies with guarantees, but if data shows that you’ll actually be better off without your crappy job, we’d say it’s time to rock the boat or, at the very least, get the hell out of your job as fast as you can. We’re not endorsing a Jerry Maguire move for anyone who’s not financially braced for months of unemployment, but if living off the Dole could make you happier than having a bad job , then you might have less to lose than you thought; speak up, ask for a raise, push for better work conditions, and if all else fails, look for a better job.