New research discovers mental health problems increase for workers who lost or left their job, and perhaps surprisingly, for workers who remain employed after jobsite enforced redundancies (downsizing).

The researchers base their findings on prescriptions among more than 26,500 municipal workers in Finland between 1994 and 2000, after a period of redundancies, sparked by a national recession. Information was gleaned from national registers.

The study is found in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

The prescriptions were confined to psychotropic drugs, including antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and sleeping pills (hypnotics).

Almost 5,000 worked in “downsized” units, but kept their jobs in 1993 when the redundancies occurred. Just over 4,000 lost or left their jobs during the downsizing, while a further 17,600 escaped exposure to the process altogether.

Men who lost or left their jobs were most at risk of a prescription for a psychotropic drug. They were 64 percent more likely to be given such a prescription than those working in organizations where no job losses had occurred.

But men who kept their jobs in downsized organizations were almost 50% more likely to be given a prescription for one of these drugs than were those whose organizations were not downsized.

This compares with women working in downsized organizations, who were 12% more likely to be given a prescription.

Sleeping pills were most often prescribed to men while anti anxiety drugs were most often prescribed to women, the findings showed.

The increased chances of a prescription for a psychotropic drug after downsizing represents “a great burden, not only on the individual, but also on society,” comment the authors.

“Our findings imply that work conditions should increasingly be recognized in large scale preventive strategies for psychiatric disorders,” they add.

The paper may be viewed in full at

Source: British Medical Journal