Precarious employment conditions can increase risk of early death

People without a secure job contract can lower their risk of premature death by 20 percent if they transition to permanent employment, according to a study conducted by Karolinska Institutet and published in The Journal of Epidemiology and Community. The research findings suggest that job security in the Swedish labor market needs improvement.

Precarious employment conditions can increase risk of early death 1

The term “precarious employment” refers to jobs characterized by short contracts (e.g., temporary work), low wages, and a lack of influence and employment rights, resulting in an unpredictable and insecure work life.

In this study, researchers examined how precarious employment conditions impact the risk of death.

“This is the first study to demonstrate that transitioning from precarious employment to secure employment can reduce the risk of death,” said the paper’s senior author, Theo Bodin, assistant professor at the Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet. “In other words, maintaining employment in jobs without secure contracts increases the risk of premature death.”

The researchers used registry data from over 250,000 workers in Sweden aged 20 to 55, collected between 2005 and 2017. The study included individuals who initially worked under precarious conditions and later shifted to secure employment.

Those who moved from precarious to secure employment had a 20 percent lower risk of death, regardless of subsequent developments, compared to those who remained in precarious employment. If individuals stayed in secure employment for 12 years, their risk of death decreased by 30 percent.

“By using this extensive population database, we were able to account for various factors that could influence mortality, such as age, other illnesses that workers may experience, or life events like divorce,” explained Nuria Matilla-Santander, assistant professor at the same institute and the study’s lead author. “Due to our research methods, we can reasonably conclude that the difference in mortality is primarily attributed to employment precariousness rather than individual factors.”

Matilla-Santander added, “These results are significant as they indicate that the elevated mortality rate observed in workers can be mitigated. By reducing job precariousness in the labor market, we can prevent premature deaths in Sweden.”

The next phase of the research will focus on examining the specific causes of mortality associated with precarious employment.

The study was primarily funded by the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life, and Welfare (Forte), and the researchers have reported no conflicts of interest.

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