BMJ editorial: the impact of the workplace on health

News article 12 Aug 2013

Job insecurity increases the risk of coronary heart disease claim LSTM’s medical statistician Brian Faragher and professor Cary Cooper of Lancaster University  in an online editorial in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

The authors comment on a recent study by M. Virtanen and colleagues which claims that job insecurity increases the risk of coronary heart disease. This particular paper adds to research reporting a link between job insecurity and adverse health events and negative behaviours.

In a meta-analysis of 485 studies conducted by Faragher and Cooper in 2005 the authors found a strong correlation between self-reported measures of job satisfaction and health. According to Faragher and Cooper the most pernicious of these is working long hours, which persists despite initiatives such as the European Union Working Hours Directive.

The authors state that an analysis of a large series of studies from many occupational and geographical settings showed conclusively that long working hours equate to an increased link of ill health and damage to social relationships. In recent years working practices have changed including the rise of the ‘zero hour contract’. Job insecurity is no longer something that employees might experience occasionally but something that many now perceive as being ever present.

Faragher and Cooper write that the trend is being felt across all occupational and socioeconomic groups and conclude that the association between job insecurity and increased risk of heart disease cannot easily be dismissed as an artefact but that the available evidence suggests that the link is causal.