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Bad Job May Be Worse for Mental Health Than No Job at All

TUESDAY, March 15 (HealthDay News) -- Having a bad, short-term or poorly paid job can harm your mental health as much as having no job, according to a new study.

Researchers analyzed data from more than 7,000 people of working age in Australia and were not surprised to find that those who were unemployed had poorer mental health overall than those with jobs.

However, the study authors also found that the mental health of people with badly paid, poorly supported or short-term jobs could be as bad as, or even worse, than that of those who were jobless.

People with the poorest quality jobs experienced the largest decline in mental health over time. The researchers found a direct association between the number of unfavorable working conditions and mental health, with each additional negative job aspect reducing a person's mental health score.

For unemployed people, the health benefits of finding a job depended on the quality of the job. Getting a high quality job after being unemployed boosted mental health by an average of 3 points, but getting a poor quality job led to a mental health decline of 5.6 points.

The authors concluded that very demanding jobs that give people little control over their work -- and that provide little support or financial reward -- are not good for health.

"Work-first policies are based on the notion that any job is better than none as work promotes economic as well as personal wellbeing, wrote the authors. "Psychosocial job quality is a pivotal factor that needs to be considered in the design and delivery of employment and welfare policy."

The study appears online in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

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Mental Health America offers tips for healthy living.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Occupational and Environmental Medicine, news release, March 14, 2011

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