Is a bad job better than no job at all? Not for your mental health

By Shayna Brouker • Published: June 15th, 2011
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Stuck in a dead-end job with a demanding boss and no control over even the way you arrange your desk? Maybe you find your work unfulfilling, overwhelming or downright boring. Well, at least you have a job, right? In today’s economy, it seems any job is better than no job at all, and the gainfully employed are the lucky ones.

But a new study of more than seven-thousand workers found that a “poor quality” job can be just as harmful to your mental well-being as being out of work. While other studies have determined that joblessness causes despair, this is the first to find that gaining an unpleasant post after unemployment may not make you happier after all.

The study explored four aspects of job satisfaction: Whether people worked in highly complex and demanding occupations, how much say they had in how they did their work, whether they believed they earned fair pay, and perceived job security.

Those with no jobs were happier than those toiling away in mediocre jobs.

In fact, the researchers saw a direct correlation between the number of negative conditions and the number of mental health problems a person suffered; each adverse situation actually lowered mental health by one point.

What’s more, the study found that landing a satisfying position after a period of joblessness improved mental well-being by an average of three points, but “gaining” a loathsome job caused it to plunge almost six points.

So what can you do to get through a job you hate? Make friends and vent — with caution. Past studies have shown that weak social ties in the workplace can hasten burnout. Adopt an attitude of gratitude and focus on the parts of the job you do like. And last but not least, schedule a vacation. There’s nothing like daydreaming about sun and sand to get you through a rough day.