Poor Working Conditions Can Impact Your Mental Health: Report

Crummy working conditions aren’t just bad for morale.

Late shifts, job insecurity, and a lack of sick leave can negatively impact employees’ mental health, according to a new study published in April 2023 by the CDC.

The study, which is based on the respondents (ages 18 to 64) of the 2021 National Center for Health Statistics National Health Interview Survey, found that one in every 37 working adults (2.7%) “experienced serious psychological distress” that was significant enough to cause “moderate-to-serious impairment” to everyday functioning and required treatment.

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The rates of mental distress varied by working conditions. The study found that one in 17 people (5.8%) who worked while sick reported “serious psychological distress,” which is three times greater than those who did not work when ill.

Courtesy of the CDC – Figure 4. Percentage of working adults aged 18–64 reporting serious psychological distress in the past 30 days, by availability of paid sick leave and report of working when physically ill: United States, 2021

Additionally, late-night shift workers and those with less-flexible scheduling were two times more likely to report mental distress than day workers with day shifts and flexible schedules.

Courtesy of the CDC – Figure 3. Percentage of working adults aged 18–64 reporting serious psychological distress in the past 30 days, by work schedule characteristics: United States, 2021

The study noted that those will inconsistent earnings and people who feared losing their jobs were also at a higher risk for reporting serious physical distress.

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Overall, the study found that autonomy in the workplace is important to mental health.

“People need to have a sense of agency in order to avoid having a stress response,” Dennis Stolle, senior director for applied psychology with the American Psychological Association, told CNN. “When people don’t know what’s going to happen and they don’t have any control over what’s going to happen, it can lead to anxiety and to increase levels of stress.”

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