What’s Worse Than Being Unemployed? A Bad Job, Say Researchers

August 16, 2017, 2:34 PM UTC

Here’s something to keep in mind when the boss is screaming at you today: When it comes to your health, you may be better off unemployed than suffering through a lousy job.

But good luck explaining that to your creditors.

A study from the University of Manchester finds that people in low-paying or highly stressful jobs had higher stress levels than people who remained unemployed.

“Job quality cannot be disregarded from the employment success of the unemployed,” said Tarani Chandola, professor of medical sociology at The University of Manchester and the paper’s lead author. “Just as good work is good for health, we must also remember poor quality work can be detrimental for health.”

Researchers studied 1,000 people, ages 35-75, who were unemployed during 2009 and 2010. They followed up with those people in the following years to check on their self-reported health and levels of chronic stress, as measured by hormones and other stress-related biomarkers.

People who took “poor quality work,” they found, had higher chronic stress than those who remained unemployed. People who took good jobs, conversely, had improved mental health scores.

The study did not show a correlation between physical health and the quality of people’s jobs. And, of course, it’s worth noting that the lack of an income makes it much more difficult to pay for doctors and medicine, both for physical and mental health issues.