Employment and mental health

Which is worse- A Bad Job or No Job? – by Staff

Common wisdom says that being employed is much better for one’s mental health than being unemployed. Right? It makes sense that the former might lead to loss of self-esteem and self confidence and, in consequence, depression. However, according to the results of a national survey conducted regularly in Australia, it really depends a lot on the job.

Employment that is unfavorable in terms of important conditions and aspects may not improve one’s mental health at all; in fact, it might just be harmful to psychological and emotional health. In other words, if your new job provides little monetary compensation and few benefits, offers little control over what you have to do, and/or is very demanding, you may see a decline in your wellbeing. And if you stay in the poor quality job a long time, your mental health is more likely to continue deteriorating.

These findings seem to create a serious dilemma. Obviously, there are advantages of having a job, regardless of how bad it is, over not having one. Besides getting some measure of wages to at least help pay the bills, a job usually affords one the social benefits of companionship or friendships, as well as psychological benefits, such as structure, maintaining a work ethic, and feelings of accomplishment. What other benefits does a job potentially offer?

Nevertheless, if a poor job is worse than no job, as the research indicates, what does it mean we should do? Turn down a lousy job to avoid worsening our mental health? Or take the job, even though we know the working conditions may make us “sick?”

I can’t imagine with unemployment where it is, any of us plan to turn down the Plan B job offer if we get the call.