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The Wrong Job Can Be Bad for You

The Wrong Job Can Be Bad for YouWhile having a job can improve a person’s outlook on life, having the wrong job can actually make a person more miserable. These are the findings of a new study out of the Australian National University (ANU) that suggests jobs are not “one size fits all” when it comes to mental health.

Led by Dr. Liana Leach of the Centre for Mental Health Research at ANU and other researchers, the new research points out that it’s not enough to just have a job — a person should also have a job that is satisfying and fits their needs.

While many studies point to the inherent mental health benefits of work and career goals, this particular study found that employment isn’t always linked to better mental health.

In fact, people who moved from unemployment into poor-quality jobs were much more likely to be depressed than those who were still unemployed.

“Our work found that people in poor-quality jobs—jobs which were insecure, did not provide future job prospects or had high levels of strain—had no better mental health than people who were unemployed,” said Dr. Leach.

“In fact, the research showed that people who moved from being unemployed into poor-quality jobs were significantly more likely to be depressed at follow-up than those people who remained unemployed.”

Research generally shows that people who are employed have better mental health than those who are unemployed.

In fact, a Gallup poll conducted earlier this year with 40,000 adult Americans found that negative emotions were more common among the underemployed. Underemployed adults were defined as those who were not working but wanted to have a job.

Specifically, the findings revealed that 46 percent of those classified as underemployed reported feelings of worry, and 27 percent reported sadness. For the employed, those numbers were 29 percent and 13 percent, respectively.

In addition, 21 percent of the underemployed said they’d been told by a medical professional they had depression.

The findings from the ANU study suggest that things may not be as simple as just having a job, though, and that employers may need to be more aware of how they assign roles to their staff.

“As a result of previous research there has been a focus on workforce participation as a means of improving people’s well-being — the idea being that if people get a job, their socioeconomic, health and personal circumstances will improve,” said Dr. Leach. “This research suggests getting people into any job may not necessarily lead to mental health improvements. Instead, people need good quality work to gain and maintain better well-being.”

The researchers add that the study sheds light on the need for employers to provide good quality work environments. Leach further defined this type of environment as one that provides good workplace support, job security and realistic work demands.

The researchers’ work is published in the October issue of BMC Public Health and was released as part of Mental Health Week.

Source: Australian National University

The Wrong Job Can Be Bad for You

Selena Chavis

APA Reference
Chavis, S. (2018). The Wrong Job Can Be Bad for You. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 20 Oct 2010)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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