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Work and Good Health of the Employed and the Unemployed Essay

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Updated: Sep 21st, 2021


Research has been done on the relationship between the physical and mental health of the employed and the unemployed. Unemployed and non-employed people are differentiated. While unemployed are people who are young and capable to work but are out of job and are looking for a job whereas the non-employed are the people who are out of work and are not looking for a job. Most of the research has centred on the people who are ‘unemployed’ and not on people who are ‘non employed’ though many of the findings are applicable to both classes of people. In this research work, both the groups are looked at together since they do not really bring in a major difference in behaviour (Jahoda, 1979). Though there is no significant change in the exposed issues and problems between the two groups, the health conditions change drastically between the two.

A literature review of the research that has already been carried out on this topic is first analysed. Essential references that talk about and research on the research question is taken up. The input from these and the major observations are taken to give the direction to the research under question. Based on these evidences, the research question is answered. The literary study itself will look at two areas of health: physical and mental. Though both are interconnected, one could be the causal factor for the other. On such occasions, the relationship is presented by the research evidences.

Physical and Psychological Health when off work

While on the job, most of the people go through a string of work related illnesses. This includes stress, hazards of work situations and other general conditions that could result from a normal work environment. This is particularly true if there is a larger than life pressure at the job and the person is too inclined to take up responsibilities beyond his limitations. However, in the case of people who are either laid off or people who are just out of work, it has been consistently found that they do suffer from a large number of ‘workless’ related health problems. In some cases, though there was no clear evidence of any specific ill ness, when a company was said to be closing up or really closed out, the employees who are getting laid off suffered an increase incidence of illnesses (Shabracq et al, 1996). According to the research paper, there was no real clinical diagnosis on any of the illnesses however; the concerned person reported problems pertaining to his health.

The research into a similar survey by Warr (1983) and later by Jackson and Warr (1984) indicate that though the people reported an increased anxiety, heart problems and chronic heart diseases, during the no-job period and there was clear evidence that the two are related. However, it was also found that for some of the people who were in really stressful jobs, their psychological or mental health improved during the jobless period. But this was found to be different with other sets of people who were not on stressful jobs. These people who were not on stressful jobs, found them to be under pressure when they went out of job. Warr and Jackson (1984) report, that some of the people, who were without job, were even pushed to suicide. They reported loss of happiness, sleep, bouts of depression, psychological distress and other neurotic disorders. All these amounted to a major health related issue specifically, psychological.

Some of the researchers also point out the relationship between the psychological health and the physical health. While stress and stress related problems is known to cause heart disease, ulceration of stomach, blood pressure and many other issues, physical health can also cause problems that could dissuade the employee from appropriate action in the office (Wilkenson 2001). As a matter of fact, failure of health itself could be the reason for a person to call off working in a company (Jex 1998). It was also found that physical health failure could lead to depression and a mental suffering causing psychological stress and health problems. Therefore, it can be taken that the physical and psychological problems do not occur separately but together.

On analysis of the research models brought out by Jahoda’s model and then later on by Warr’s Vitamin Model which is more a growth over the earlier model. The Warr’s vitamin model has nine basic environmental parameters identified and listed. These parameters Warr propounded, acted like vitamins. Whether they went beyond the limit or even if they went below the limit, in either case they caused problems to the physical and psychological health of the person (Lars Axelsson, 2004). Unemployment may not be negative for people who are leaving unsatisfactory work. But at the same time, if it is prolonged, it could cause serious problems for such people.

However it is important to note that the psychological factors and the physical factors continue to cause major issues with those people who are exposed to long term unemployment. There are also research evidences that suggest chronic illnesses brought about by work and work related hazards. Constant exposure to intense sound or a specific gas or heat is found to cause even genetically altered illnesses. Such hazards would not happen if the person were to be out of work (Shabrug et al, 1996). However, there are a number of causal factors that usher in large scale degradation of health in people due to unemployment. Typical factors are: Financial problems and lack of self esteem perception of competence, alcohol abuse, paranoia, pessimism and so on. These invariably result in simple to pretty complex illnesses. CHD and death to headaches, stomach aches and sleep problems.

Outcome of the research

The ongoing research brings out various facets of the employment and unemployment in the modern industry. There are factors clearly being the causal factors for health issues to unemployed people (Wickens et al, 2004). As the initial detail on the unemployment shown by Warr and the model, there is clear evidence that there would be degradation of health both physically and psychologically due to unemployment. Similar situation is brought out in the research conducted by Hanisch (1999). However, none of them could conclusively say that these are and will cause health issues to unemployed people and this has to be countered. Instead as in the case of the model brought about by Warr, specific increase in any of the parameters could cause related problems. This has been brought about by all the researchers in the field.


Based on the discussions held so far, the following conclusions are reached based on the points raised in the previous paragraphs and their evidences:

  1. There is a degradation of health both physiological and psychological.
  2. The same way there are also certain factors which helps positively the person who is unemployed.
  3. This is not fixed either. There is a possibility that the unemployed person might be moving from one to the other depending upon his satisfaction level and his own person perception of the requirement.


Jahoda M. (1979). The Impact of Unemployment in the 1930s and the 1970s. Bull Br Psychological Society, Vol 32, pp 309-314.

Jex, S. (1998) Stress and Job Performance. USA: Sage Publications.

Kathy Hanisch (1999) Job Loss and Unemployment Research from 1994 to 1998: A Review and Recommendations for Research and Intervention. Journal of Vocational Behaviour, Vol.55 No.2, pp188-220.

Lars Axelsson, Ingemar Andersson, Lena Eden and Goran Ejlertsson. Inequalities of quality of Life in Unemployed young Adults: A population based Questionnaire Study. International Journal for Equity in Health 2007, Vol 6:1.

Shabracq, M.J., Winnubst,J.A.M., & Cooper, C.L.(1996) Handbook of Work and Health Psychology. UK: Wiley.

Warr P. (1987). Work, unemployment and mental health. Oxford Science Publications, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Wilkenson, Carol (2001). Fundamentals of health at Work. Taylor and Francis, New York.

Wickens, C.D., Lee,J.D., Liu, Y., Becker, S.E.G (2004). An Introduction to Human Factors Engineering. New Jersey, USA: Pearson Prentice Hall.

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