Malgorzata Mikucka, Oliver Arránz Becker, Christof Wolf
Cumulative Health Effects of Work Precarity. Longitudinal Analysis of German National Panel Data

19th Biennial European Society For Health and Medical Sociology Conference, Forli, 25. bis 27. August 2022

Past research suggested that work precarity erodes health, and theoretical models postulate that these effects accumulate over time. However, cumulative effects of work precarity have only rarely been studied. To fill this gap, this study estimated the instantaneous and cumulative effects of work precarity on physical and mental health.
We used German SOEP data for people aged 45-65 observed over 11-17 years (n=4,500 respondents, N=27,495 observations). To account for the multidimensionality of work precarity, we considered objective and subjective indicators of (1) work insecurity (“precarity of work”), (2) job demands (“precarity at work”), and (3) low earnings (“precarity from work”). The outcomes were mental and physical health indexes derived from the SF-12 scale. Our panel regression models with individual fixed effects controlled for the educational gradient in health development over age.
The results showed that intra-individual changes in subjective, but not objective, work precarity predicted shifts in physical and mental health. The effects of subjective job insecurity, income dissatisfaction, and unemployment accumulated over time: people who experienced these types of precarity for a longer time experienced a greater reduction in health. The sizes of the cumulative effects were smaller than of instantaneous effects. Cumulative effects of subjective job insecurity and unemployment were stronger for physical than for mental health and shifts in income dissatisfaction correlated with shifts in mental health more strongly than with shifts in physical health.
Our results demonstrate that work precarity has cumulative negative effects on health, but various dimensions and indicators differ in predictive power.