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June/July 2014 (vol. 11/1)

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Research Plus

Work is generally good for mental health

A systematic review of 33 prospective studies (23 of high quality), with sample sizes from 45 to 8,744 participants and follow-up ranging from three months to 21 years, confirms that employment is generally beneficial for mental health. Although there is insufficient evidence to draw conclusions on the impact of employment on psychological distress, general health or physical health, there is strong evidence that it protects against both depression and general mental health. Pooled risk estimates drawn from studies comparing re-employed individuals with people permanently unemployed shows that re-employment reduces both the risk of depression (OR = 0.52; CI 0.33–0.83) and – despite the above inconclusive finding from the evidence synthesis – psychological distress (OR = 0.79; CI 0.72–0.86). The fact that healthy people are more likely than unhealthy individuals to enter the labour force – the ‘healthy worker effect’ – is an important caveat to the general conclusions.

Health effects of employment: a systematic review of prospective studies. Occupational & Environmental Medicine 2014; online first: doi: 10.1136/oemed-2013-101891.  

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Occupational Health at Work June/July 2014 (vol. 11/1) pp44