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Bad jobs affect mental health
We all know that having a bad job can make you unhappy. But new research has found it's worse for your mental health than not having one at all.

In research published today in the journal BMC Public Health, Australian National University (ANU), researchers found that people who remained unemployed were likely to be happier than those who gained employment in a 'poor' job.

The researchers defined a poor job as one with little job security, an unrealistic workload or little control over managing workload, or no prospects.

Previous research has shown that employed people have better mental health than unemployed people, so efforts to promote mental wellbeing and social inclusion focus on getting people back to work.

But it's not that simple, says Dr Liana Leach from ANU's Centre for Mental Health Research.

"Any job is not necessarily better than no job at all. And it's not about a particular type of job," says Leach. "Poor conditions can occur in any kind of occupation."

The researchers studied around 4000 people living in Canberra and Queanbeyan. Participants completed a survey about their employment status and conditions as well as their mental wellbeing. The same survey was repeated four years later.

The findings are important for both employers and programs aiming to get people back to work, says Leach.

"Programs are often focused on getting people into any type of work as quickly as possible. This study shows that if that's without a focus on moving people into work that satisfies them, benefits in mental wellbeing and social exclusion aren't likely."
Positive approach

But it's not all doom and gloom. A similar study by Leach and her colleague Dr Peter Butterworth of more than 7000 people across Australia found that people who move from unemployment to a high-quality job tend to see an improvement in wellbeing.

"That's the positive side - if we can get people into good quality work then we see an improvement in terms of depression and anxiety. It means these factors are modifiable - employers can change things that will have an impact on their employees mental health," says Leach.

Dr Tessa Keegel, a research fellow at the McCaughey Centre at the University of Melbourne, says the study provides evidence that poor quality jobs can be harmful to health.

"This research is particularly relevant at the moment as Australia moves out of the global financial crisis and employment opportunities start to open up," says Keegal.

"In a just and fair Australia there should be no 'disposable workers' who are left behind in poor quality jobs which are harmful to their health."

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