Effects of chronic job insecurity and change in job security on self reported health, minor psychiatric morbidity, physiological measures, and health related behaviours in British civil servants: the Whitehall II study
- 1International Centre for Health and Society, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London Medical School, UK
- 2Department of Psychiatry, Queen Mary University of London, UK
- Correspondence to Jane Ferrie, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London Medical School, 1–19 Torrington Place, London WC1E 6BT, UK;
- Accepted 21 September 2001
Study objective: To determine the effect of chronic job insecurity and changes in job security on self reported health, minor psychiatric morbidity, physiological measures, and health related behaviours.
Design: Self reported health, minor psychiatric morbidity, physiological measures, and health related behaviours were determined in 931 women and 2429 men who responded to a question on job insecurity in 1995/96 and again in 1997/99. Self reported health status, clinical screening measures, and health related behaviours for participants whose job security had changed or who remained insecure were compared with those whose jobs had remained secure.
Setting: Prospective cohort study, Whitehall II, all participants were white collar office workers in the British Civil Service on entry to the study.
Main results: Self reported morbidity was higher among participants who lost job security. Among those who gained job security residual negative effects, particularly in the psychological sphere were observed. Those exposed to chronic job insecurity had the highest self reported morbidity. Changes in the physiological measures were limited to an increase in blood pressure among women who lost job security and a decrease in body mass index among women reporting chronic job insecurity. There were no significant differences between any of the groups for alcohol over the recommended limits or smoking.
Conclusion: Loss of job security has adverse effects on self reported health and minor psychiatric morbidity, which are not completely reversed by removal of the threat and which tend to increase with chronic exposure to the stressor.
Funding: the Whitehall II study has been supported by grants from the Medical Research Council; British Heart Foundation; Health and Safety Executive; Department of Health; National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (HL36310), US, NIH: National Institute on Aging (AG13196), US, NIH; Agency for Health Care Policy Research (HS06516); and the John D and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation Research Networks on Successful Midlife Development and Socio-economic Status and Health. JF was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (L128251046) during the preparation of this paper. MM is supported by an MRC Research Professorship. MS is supported by the British Heart Foundation.
Conflicts of interest: none.