February 24, 2010 / 4:24 PM / in 8 years

Job insecurity linked to risk of poor health

<p>An employee at a Carrefour supermarket is comforted by a colleague outside the store in Sint-Pieters-Leeuw near Brussels February 23, 2010. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir</p>

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Globalization, the economic recession and rising unemployment have increased job insecurity which is having a negative impact on the health of employees, European researchers said on Tuesday.

In a study of more than 23,000 workers in 16 European countries, an international team of scientists found that the fear of losing a job significantly increased the risk of poor health for workers in Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia and the Czech Republic.

But it had a less of an effect in Austria, France, Italy, Spain and Switzerland and no impact on employees in Belgium and Sweden.

“Our findings indicate that an important proportion of middle-aged individuals in Europe are affected by job insecurity and that having an insecure job is associated with an increased risk of poor health in most of the countries included in the analysis,” the researchers said in the study published in the journal Social Science & Medicine.

Krisztina D. Laszlo, of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, and researchers from Hungary, Britain, Poland and Russia analyzed data from three studies.

Workers were questioned about their job security and were also asked to rate their overall health as very good, good, fair, poor or very poor.

“The prevalence of job insecurity was the lowest in Spain (14.2 percent) and France (17.6 percent) and the highest in Hungary (40.4 percent), Czech Republic (41 percent) and Poland (41.7 percent),” according to the study.

The prevalence of poor health was also highest in Hungarian, Czech, Russian and Polish workers.

The link between job insecurity and risk of poor health did not differ according to sex, education, marital status or education.

Because salaries and working income makes up to 70 percent of the average family income in Europe, the researchers said job security has a major impact and is considered the most important characteristic of a job in most European countries.

Workers in Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden rank relationships with co-workers above job security.

“Given that job insecurity is likely to increase as the labor market becomes more globalized, governments and labor unions need to pay attention to job insecurity and its public health consequences,” the researchers added.

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