Are employment and working conditions a huge determinant of one’s health?

By: Amanda Mashambe, Cuie Yan and Jenna Reid, Dietetic and Nutrition students, Acadia University

Yes they are! Due to the great amount of time people spend in their workplaces, employment has a huge impact on one’s level of stress as well as physical, mental and social health (Jackson & Polanyi, 2002). Employment and good working conditions yield good health. Work conditions normally associated with health include; physical conditions at work, working time, work-life balance, work pace, control and stress, as well as participation and relationships at work (Health Nexus and Ontario Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance, 2008).
Some people who work in unsafe environments may be exposed to loud noise, poor air quality and chemicals. These unsafe working conditions can result in injuries, which are common in some work places.

Lack of assurance about one’s employment stability can lead to a huge emotional response, which in some cases, may lead to substance abuse. Regardless of an individuals economic status most employees have experienced job insecurity, however it is more predominant amongst those in low socioeconomic levels. People experiencing job insecurity actually have a 1.5 times higher risk of poor mental health, as compared to the unemployed (Wilkinson & Marmot, 2003).

Working long hours has proven to increase one’s risk of developing high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease (Health Nexus and Ontario Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance, 2008). Lack of control over one’s job and working shifts has been shown to increase the incidence of coronary disea ses in both males and females (Wilkinson & Marmot, 2003). The presence of a supportive collective agreement, which addresses positive employment practices and safe working conditions, and healthy social relationships at work are factors which can support the well being of an individual.
Unemployment yields a lot of health problems including the potential of a reduced life expectancy. Psychological problems often accompany unemployment and include low self-esteem, loss of identity, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and increased substance abuse (Health Nexus and Ontario Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance, 2008).
What could be done to solve these problems that unemployment and some working conditions place on an individual’s health? Certain workplace policies can be put in place to achieve a happier, healthier and more productive population. These policies should have three goals: to prevent unemployment and job insecurity; to reduce hardships suffered by the unemployed, and to restore people to secure jobs (Wilkinson & Marmot, 2003, p.21).

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