Threat of widespread job losses significantly increases ill health among employees

April 06, 2000

The threat of widespread job losses as a result of "downsizing" significantly increases ill health among employees, finds a study in this week's British Medical Journal. It is not only job insecurity that adversely affects an employee's health, but also the increased demands and lessened sense of control that downsizing creates, shows the research by Mika Kivimäki, PhD, and colleagues from the University of Helsinki and University College Medical School, London.

The research team investigated links between downsizing, changes related to work, and other aspects of life as well as medically certified sick leave in 764 Finnish municipal workers. The employees were studied over a period of five years up to 1995, before, after, and during downsizing.

They found that downsizing was associated with negative changes in work, impaired emotional support from a partner, and increased tendency to smoke. Sick leave was twice as likely among workers who had undergone major, rather than minor, downsizing. The greatest proportion of the relationship between downsizing and sick leave was explained by increased physical demands, job insecurity, and less control over deployment of skills and decision making.
(Factors underlying the effect of organisational downsizing on health of employees: longitudinal cohort study. BMJ Volume 320, pp 971 - 975.)

For further information about the British Medical Journal or to obtain a full-text version of the study, please contact the Public Affairs Division at +44(0)171 383 6254, Public Affairs Division, British Medical Association, BMA House, Tavistock Square, London WC1H 9JP or email: . After 6 p.m. and on weekends telephone: +44(0)181 241 6386/+44(0)181 997 3653/+44(0)181 674 6294/+44(0)1525 379792/+44(0)181 651 5130.

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