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Job Insecurity Is Making Americans Sick

Even the remote possibility of losing a job will make the average American sick.

Despite recent low unemployment rates, job insecurity is so stressful that employees often suffer from a variety of physical and psychological problems, including heart disease, loss of sleep and psychological distress, according to new research from Ball State University’s College of Health.

Association of Job Insecurity with Health Risk Factors and Poorer Health in American Workers, published in the Journal of Community Health, also found that job insecure individuals in the United States are more likely to be male, racial minorities or multiracial adults, those with less than a college degree and 45-64 years old.

Ball State’s report is based on an analysis of 17,441 people who participated in the National Health Interview Survey, which has monitored the health of the nation since 1957. NHIS data on a broad range of health topics are collected through personal household interviews. 

Jagdish Khubchandani, a community health education professor and the study’s lead author, said the results clearly show that job insecurity in the American workforce is hurting everyone, including employers.

“The perceptions of job insecurity in American workers are serious and a source of severe chronic stress causing health problems. Job-insecure individuals will not be able to maintain good health and with time, will suffer from chronic diseases leading to healthcare and productivity loss-related costs for employers across the country,” said Khubchandani

The study found that over 12-month period:

  • About 33 percent of all respondents reported job insecurity with males 14 percent more likely than females to report serious job insecurity.
  • Individuals reporting job insecurity were more likely to be obese and smoke, have short sleep duration, and not engage in regular physical activity.
  • Females who were job insecure reported higher rates of asthma, diabetes, work-life imbalance, worsening general health in the past year, and pain disorders, including migraine and neck pain. 
  • Men who were job insecure were more likely to miss more than two weeks of work in the past year, and suffer from severe chest pain, ulcers and hypertension.

“To tackle the anxiety and fear of job loss in workers, American employers can use effective measures such as improving communication between management and workers; reducing conflicting or uncertain job responsibilities, establishing a program to recognize workers’ accomplishments, providing opportunities for workers to participate in company decisions and actions affecting their jobs, establishing employee assistance programs, assisting workers with improving work-life balance by using flex time, job sharing, work from home, eldercare and child support programs,” added Khubchandani.

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