Fear of Job Loss May Be Worse Than Loss Itself

ByABC News
September 3, 2009, 8:18 PM

Sept. 4 -- THURSDAY, Sept. 3 (HealthDay News) -- People who constantly worry about losing their jobs reported poorer physical health and more symptoms of depression than those who'd actually been laid off, a new study shows.

University of Michigan researchers analyzed nationally representative samples of surveys from more than 1,700 adults over age 25 who were asked about their physical and mental health, as well as their feelings about the security of their job.

One group answered the questions in 1986 and again in 1989, while another group answered questions between 1995 and 2005.

Those who said they feared losing their job at both points in the study reported poorer health and more symptoms of depression than those who had actually been laid off sometime after the first interview but had found another job by the second.

Those with chronic job insecurity were also more likely to report having poor health than those who smoked or had hypertension, according to the results in one group.

"The negative effect of being persistently insecure was more significant than the unemployment itself," said study author Sarah Burgard, a research assistant professor at the school's Institute for Social Research. "The caveat is these people were re-employed the second time they were interviewed."

Those who remained jobless were not included in the analysis, which will appear in the September issue of Social Science & Medicine.

Much research has looked at the stress of unemployment, Burgard said, but less is known about the effects of persistent job uncertainty, an issue more workers are facing due to shifts in the labor market and the prolonged recession.

With rampant layoffs and structural changes in many industries, expectations of lifelong employment are dwindling. With it comes increased worries about job security, Burgard said.

To measure perceptions of job security, questions included: "If you wanted to stay in your present job, what are the chances you could keep it for the next two years?"