Young people under zero-hours contracts vulnerable to mental health problems, finds study

Zero-hours contracts or casual contracts, which allow employers to hire people without any guarantee of work, can affect the mental health of young employees. A new study suggests that young adults hired under zero-hours contracts are at higher risk of poor mental health than employees having stable jobs.

Researchers from the Centre for Longitudinal Studies at the U.K.’s UCL Institute of Education found that workers recruited under zero-hours contracts had higher risk of poor mental health compare to fulltime employees. In addition, unemployed and shift workers were also found vulnerable to mental illnesses. Zero-hours contracts put employees at greater risk of symptoms related to psychological distress, the study found.

It was found that 25-year-olds on zero-hours contracts, who were previously unemployed, were more than twice as likely to develop a mental illness compared to those who had jobs. Though the people working in shifts had no greater risk of poor health than those working regular hours, they were more vulnerable to developing psychological problems.

Financial stress and risk of poor mental health

Dr. Morag Henderson, lead author, highlighted the challenges faced by the millennials as they started working. “One explanation for these findings is that financial stress or the stress associated with having a low-status job increases the risk of poor mental health. It may also be that the worry of having no work or irregular work triggers physical symptoms of stress, including chest pain, headaches and muscle tension,” Henderson said.

To assess the burden of mental health problems, the researchers studied the employment status of more than 7,700 people born in England between 1989 and 1990. Among the participants, 5 percent people were employed on zero-hours contracts, while 7 percent were unemployed.

The study emphasized the need to understand the relationship between health and work, and take necessary action to improve the mental health of the employees. Moreover, the researchers urged the government and employers to work in tandem to create better quality jobs and promote the mental health and overall well-being of employees. Ignoring this can increase the demand for mental health services, which might lead to huge productivity losses, the study warned.

Zero-hours contracts are quite common in the U.K. and some other European countries. Experts feel that the trend will soon catch on in the United States, the country already reeling under mental health crisis. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), in 2015, there were over 43 million people aged 18 years or older in the U.S. – representing about 18 percent of the adult population — with any mental illness (AMI) within the previous year.

Taking care of mental health

Mental health is as important as physical health. Therefore, it is important to recognize the early signs of mental health problems. Common signs of a mental disorder include prolonged sadness or irritability, excessive fear, worries or anxiety, social withdrawal, drastic changes in sleeping or eating habits, growing discomfort with daily problems, confused or suicidal thoughts. People who experience any of these problems should immediately seek the advice of a mental health care professional.

Notably, mental health problems can be treated with timely medical intervention. People can contact the 24/7 Mental Health Helpline for useful information on mental health problems and residential mental health facilities. Call our 24/7 helpline number 855-653-8178 or chat online with one of our mental health specialists to know more about mental health treatment centers in your vicinity.