A study by the University of the Basque Country shows that job insecurity harms mental health

Women and young people suffer more job insecurity and are at greater risk of suffering mental illness. / THE MAIL

Science | Health

Research reveals that not only unemployment favors the onset of anxiety and depression, but also working conditions

Fermin Apezteguia

The sustained crisis that the Western world has been experiencing since 2008 opens new flanks every day against people's emotional stability. A study by the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) reveals that job insecurity significantly affects the mental health of workers. The novelty provided by the work, signed by the Opik group of Social Determinants of Health and Demographic Change, is that it shows that poor conditions of salary, hours or work environment can favor the appearance of anxiety and depression symptoms. the way unemployment does.

Reviewed by peers as established by the scientific method and published in the journal 'Gaceta Médica', the report is based on the analysis of the data on job insecurity included in the 2018 Euskadi Health Survey. That year, that report, edited by The Basque Department of Health periodically included for the first time a series of questions to try to measure the impact of working conditions on the disease. Consequently, the Opik group's research offers a snapshot of the situation, although based on the largest study on population health published in the Basque Country.

Child and elderly care

“We believe that job insecurity must be addressed from a multidimensional perspective. Otherwise, important aspects that are not being analyzed could be left out, "the main researcher of the study, Erika Valero-Alzaga, professor at the Faculty of Nursing, explained to EL CORREO. Under this criterion, the study focused on the analysis of the situation of employed workers between the ages of 16 and 65 and took into account six variables: temporality, salary and the disempowerment of the group, in addition to the vulnerability of the employees. , the rights they have and the capacity to exercise them.

From the analysis of all of them, it was concluded that the economic and political transformations of recent years have caused a "significant deterioration" in the quality of employment and the insecurity of workers. Hence, the rise in mental health complications, which affect the working population in general, but especially women and young people.

According to Valero-Alzaga, who signs the study with the researchers Mireia Utzet and Unai Martín, they tend to have lower quality jobs, fewer permanent contracts and lower salary levels. Instead, they are "overrepresented" in part-time jobs. The young population with a lower socioeconomic level also suffers from greater job insecurity and, consequently, more mental illness.

Employees in the domestic care sector and care for children, the elderly and dependent people have higher levels of anxiety and depression. “Until now, the priority has been to put an end to unemployment, because it is known that it has a negative impact on health”, the researcher has assessed; "But it is no longer about guaranteeing employment, but also access to decent employment and adequate salary conditions."

The impact of mental health on workers is of such magnitude that mental health services have detected a "flood" of patients in therapy for problems of job insecurity, as confirmed by Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona. The matter is so worrying that this institution has created a special commission to analyze it and prepare a report with recommendations for the central government. The group, made up of psychiatrists, psychologists, philosophers, experts in labor law and social security and occupational risk prevention, will present its conclusions before the end of the year.

European study

An extensive study by the European Union coordinated by the preventivist Carme Borrell, from the Barcelona Public Health Agency, concludes that job insecurity in Spain affects 48% of workers. Women (51.4%) suffer in a greater proportion than men (34.1%) from unhealthy working conditions. Spain, moreover, appears in this field among the least safe countries in Europe, in 24th place out of the 34 analysed. The situation is better in the Nordic countries and considerably worse in those of the East.

The work of the UPV/EHU is based on data prior to the outbreak of the covid pandemic, which suggests that the figures are currently worse. “Health is not a state that depends only on biology and genetics. We have always known that the environment also influences, but now we can say that paid work also ».

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