Research Snapshot: How job insecurity and financial concern are associated with poor mental health during COVID-19

What you need to know

During a global crisis, an increase in unemployment rates and job insecurity is associated with poor mental health outcomes, leading to an increase in anxiety and depressive symptoms. In the United States, during the Equine Influenza (EI) outbreak and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak, job losses caused an increase in psychological and emotional stress. Similar patterns are now being seen with the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). High unemployment rates, fear of losing one’s job or difficulty in attaining new employment is negatively affecting the mental health of those who are struggling financially.

In this study the authors focused on the potential links between job insecurity, financial concerns and mental health and whether financial concerns explained the association between job insecurity and mental health due to COVID-19. Overall, the authors found higher rates of depressive and anxiety symptoms associated with job insecurity and financial concerns during COVID-19.

 

This Research Snapshot is based on the article, “Job Insecurity and Financial Concern During the COVID-19 Pandemic Are Associated With Worse Mental Health ” published in Journal of Occupational Environmental Medicine in 2020. 

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What is this research about?

In the past, research has shown a link between household income and financial strain and anxiety or depressive disorders. Those experiencing job insecurity are also concerned about their personal finances. These concerns can lead to poor mental health outcomes, especially during a national or global crisis.

In this study, the authors examined whether job insecurity and financial concerns were related to poor mental health outcomes such as anxiety and depressive symptoms. They further explored whether financial concerns also explained the association between job insecurity due to COVID-19 and mental health.

What did the researchers do?

The researchers collected data through an online questionnaire from 797 individuals residing in the United States in April 2020. The following factors associated with mental health were captured through the online questionnaires: anxiety symptoms, depressive symptoms, job insecurity, financial concern, COVID-19 experiences, perceived health, illness recency and COVID-19 Infection status.

The authors also looked at the following demographic characteristics: age, race, sex, education level, relationship status, annual family income, whether or not they worked in the healthcare field, whether or not they had children in the home, and employment status.

What did the researchers find?

In this study, the authors looked at a sample size of 474 participants who were mainly white males, 40 years of age with some level of employment. They found higher rates of depressive and anxiety symptoms associated with job insecurity and financial concern during COVID-19. The authors found that one quarter of the participants reported having moderate to severe depressive and anxiety symptoms, while 30% were concerned about their financial situation over the next 12 months. The authors also found that a majority of the participants worried about the potential effect of COVID-19 on their employment.

Overall, the authors found that greater job insecurity was associated with depressive symptoms and greater financial concerns were associated with anxiety symptoms. Interestingly, greater financial concerns were not associated with depressive symptoms and a sense of hopelessness, a risk factor for depressive symptoms, might have been more associated with job insecurity. In addition, they found job insecurity was indirectly associated with greater anxiety symptoms due to financial concerns.

The authors found that these results were aligned with those found in previous research studies that show greater job insecurity and financial concerns are associated with poor mental health outcomes during a national or global crisis.

Limitations of the research

The researchers noted that their findings had several limitations. Firstly, the data sample of those currently employed may not have represented all individuals employed in the United States. Secondly, the authors could not conclude that one factor caused the other. The authors were only able to report on the association between job insecurity and financial concerns with poor mental health outcomes. Lastly, the authors did not capture type of employment (e.g., if they were essential workers).

How can you use this research?

This study shows that there is an association between job insecurity and financial concerns with depressive and anxiety symptoms. Policy makers and employers can use this research to inform workplace policies and policies governing employment, especially during a crisis. Further research and replication of this study can aid employers in making changes to workplace policies that include alternative working options based on type of employment (e.g., allowing employees to work from home with flexible hours and less pay).

Acknowledgements

This knowledge exchange activity is supported by Evidence Exchange Network (EENet), which is part of the Provincial System Support Program at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health - “CAMH”). EENet has been made possible through a financial contribution from the Ministry of Health (“MOH”). The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of either MOH or of CAMH.

While care has been taken in selecting and preparing the information included in this Research Snapshot, it is based on one research article. A comprehensive search was not completed to see if new evidence exists. As a result, the context behind the research, the terminology used, the research methods and the findings may not provide the full picture for this particular topic. Also, there might be a lag between when the study was conducted and when it was published, so it might not reflect the current evidence.

Keywords

Anxiety, COVID-19, Depression, Financial Concern, Job Insecurity

 

This Research Snapshot was based on the article, “Job Insecurity and Financial Concern During the COVID-19 Pandemic Are Associated With Worse Mental Health ” published in Journal of Occupational Environmental Medicine in 2020. https://doi.org/10.1097/jom.0000000000001962