Precarious employment conditions can increase risk of early death

Workers without secure job contracts can reduce their risk of premature death by 20%, according to a study from the Karolinska Institutet published in The Journal of Epidemiology and Community. The findings highlight the need to improve job security in the Swedish labor market. Precarious employment, characterized by short contracts, low wages, and limited rights, can lead to an unpredictable and insecure working life.

The study examined the impact of precarious employment on mortality rates. Theo Bodin, the study’s last author and an assistant professor at the Institute of Environmental Medicine at the Karolinska Institutet, explained, “This is the first study to show that changing from precarious employment to secure employment can reduce the risk of death. It’s the same as saying that the risk of early death is higher if one keeps working in jobs without a secure employment contract.”

The research analyzed data from over 250,000 workers in Sweden aged 20 to 55, collected between 2005 and 2017. The study included individuals who initially worked in insecure conditions and then transitioned to secure employment.

Results revealed that those who shifted from precarious to secure employment experienced a 20% lower risk of death compared to those who remained in precarious jobs, regardless of subsequent career developments. For those who maintained secure employment for 12 years, the risk of death decreased by 30%.

Nuria Matilla-Santander, the study’s first author and an assistant professor at the same institute, emphasized the study’s comprehensive approach, stating, “Using this large population database allowed us to take account of many factors that could influence mortality, such as age, other diseases that workers can suffer from or life changes like divorce.” She added, “The results are important since they show that the elevated mortality rate observed in workers can be avoided. If we reduce precariousness in the labor market, we can avoid premature deaths in Sweden.”

The research team plans to investigate the specific causes of mortality further in future studies. The study received funding primarily from the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life, and Welfare (Forte), with no reported conflicts of interest.

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