Individuals living on the edge of employment stability face a heightened risk of untimely death, a risk reportedly 20% greater than their securely employed counterparts, as revealed by a recent Swedish study. The findings, published in the August edition of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community, identified a connection between early death and short-term employment contracts, minimal wages, and a lack of influence, predictability, and security in the job role.
According to Nuria Matilla-Santander, the principal investigator and assistant professor at the esteemed Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, the study’s findings bear significant relevance. She believes they underline the potential to curtail the heightened mortality rates seen in workers by addressing the instability in the job market. Consequently, Sweden and other countries could avert untimely deaths.
The research team scrutinized registry data compiled over 12 years, from 2005 to 2017. The data encompassed more than a quarter of a million Swedish employees, aged between 20 and 55. Both the shifters, those who transitioned from unstable to stable employment circumstances, and the stayers, those who continued in unstable conditions, were included in the study.
When explaining the benefits of this extensive dataset, Matilla-Santander emphasised how it enabled her team to isolate the impact of employment instability on premature death from other potential influencers like age, stressful life events like divorces, and prevalent diseases that workers could be suffering from. She assured that the difference in mortality rates is due to the precariousness of work rather than individual factors.
The study’s findings showed that those who transitioned from insecure to secure employment circumstances displayed a 20% lower risk of untimely death. This phenomenon held true even accounting for subsequent events and compared to those who persisted in unstable job conditions. Moreover, the study found, the risk of death decreased by a further 10%, totalling to a 30% decrease, if employees stayed in secure employment for 12 years.
Theo Bodin, a co-author of the study, acknowledged this as an unprecedented finding. He reiterated how continuing to work in jobs without the security of permanency increases the risk of early death.
This study aligns with global attempts by researchers to comprehend the influence of precarious employment on workers’ health. Earlier studies from Finland, France, and the United States found lower death risks for temporary workers transitioning to permanent roles, higher mortality risks among temporary male employees compared to permanent ones, and a connection between income flunctuations and mortality due to any cause, respectively.
Despite the considerable insights provided by Matilla-Santander’s study, the specifics of how precarious employment precipitates early death are still unclear. Potential reasons posited include economic insecurity, material scarcity, chronic stress and deleterious or perilous working conditions often experienced by those precariously employed. The following phase of this research aims to further delve into these potential explanations.