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Temp Work Strains Employee Mental Health

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Temp work strains employee mental health New McGill research shows temporary and short-term contract jobs contribute to psychological distress and depression

Workers hired for temporary, contract, casual or fixed-term positions face a higher risk of developing mental health problems, according to research presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association on August 9.

"Temporary workers-those lacking long-term, stable employment-seem to be susceptible to declining mental health for as long as they continue to work in these so-called 'disposable' or 'second class' jobs," said Amelie Quesnel-Vallee, a medical sociologist at McGill University and the study's primary investigator.

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The paper, "Contingent Work and Depressive Symptoms: Contribution of Health Selection and Moderating Effects of Employment Status," was co-authored by Suzanne DeHaney and Antonio Ciampi, both from McGill.

"This research shows that temporary work strains employee mental health, as contingent workers report more symptoms of depression and psychological distress than similarly employed workers who are not in these fixed-term positions. These findings should be of particular interest for employers as they consider the long-term or global health impact of relying on a contingent workforce to meet current or future employment needs," said Quesnel-Vallee.

As of 2005, about 4.1 percent of the U.S. workforce-5.7 million American workers-held a position they believed to be temporary, according to the most recent data available from the Current Population Survey.

The research team analyzed a sample of longitudinal records collected biennially between 1992 and 2002 from the U.S. National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79). The NLSY79 is a survey of men and women born between 1957 and 1964 who were interviewed annually from 1979 to 1994, and biennially thereafter. The research team considered respondents' contingent (temporary) work status, depressive symptoms scores, poverty level and educational attainment. Results are considered representative of the general middle-aged U.S. working population.