Women may struggle more than men in involuntary temporary employment

Involuntary temporary work and mental health medications.


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Jobs with temporary employment agreements have become more common in most Western countries. Studies show a connection between temporary work and poor health consequences. However, no research has examined the impact of involuntary temporary employment on the mental health of workers.

A new study published in PLOS Glob Public Health analyzed the consequences of involuntary temporary employment for mental health. This is the first study to examine the extent to which the length of exposure to temporary employment plays a role in mental health.

The study suggests that women may struggle more than men in involuntary temporary employment, with 12.8% increases in mental health drug prescriptions.

For this study, scientists distinguish between different lengths of exposure to involuntary temporary employment and assess the effects separately for women and men.

The data for this study was obtained by analyzing survey data from the European Union LFS (2006–2018), supplemented by high-quality administrative data on the use of prescription drugs to alleviate mental health problems. Scientists found that involuntary temporary employment (ITE) has adverse mental health consequences for women but not for men. Shorter periods of ITE appear to have minor positive mental health consequences for women but not for men.

Scientists determined the long-term impacts of involuntary full-time temporary employment on mental health by applying a fixed effects approach. They also compare the results of workers in full-time temporary employment that is obtained involuntarily with a control group of workers who are hired in a similar capacity later to look into causal impacts even further.

Three thousand eight hundred twenty-seven males and 5,365 women make up the treatment groups of workers in full-time temporary employment. Among the women in the group, 14 percent had a prescription for mental health medication, compared to 17 percent of the women in the comparison group who had full-time, permanent jobs. The comparable percentages for men are 12 percent and 13 percent, respectively.

The average age of temporary workers is 37–38 years for men and 42 years for women, which is younger than that of workers in the comparison group. The marriage rate and the percentage of workers with children are lower among temporary workers, indicating their lower age. The size of the age standard deviation demonstrates that temporary labor is shared across the workforce’s age groups.

Older full-time workers are more frequent users of prescription drugs than younger ones: The share of women using prescription drugs increases from 6 pct. among workers aged 20–24 to 38 pct. among those aged 60–64, while the corresponding shares for men are three pct. and 36 pct.

Scientists noted, “We conclude that involuntary full-time temporary employment for six quarters or more is likely to be harmful to women’s mental health, while shorter periods of involuntary full-time temporary employment may have a minor positive impact. The implications suggest that it is advisable for labor market policy to make it easy for those in involuntary temporary employment to find permanent jobs and that policymakers should consider adverse mental health problems when addressing policies affecting the prevalence of temporary employment.”

Journal Reference:

  1. Albæk K, Andrade SB (2023) Involuntary temporary work and mental health medications: A longitudinal study in Denmark. PLOS Glob Public Health 3(11): e0002634. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgph.0002634


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