Job insecurity and mental health: A meta-analytical review of the consequences of precarious work in clinical disorders

Keywords: job insecurity, mental health, precarious work, meta-analysis


Faced with the growing instability resulting from the world economic crisis, job insecurity gains relevance in the study of occupational health. In order to analyse the consequences of job insecurity on mental health, a reference document is provided including the empirical research advances in the current framework. This systematic review follows a meta-analytical technique through 56 independent samples with 53,405 participants in total. The analysis offers a significant correlation between subjective job insecurity and mental health. Thus, it has been found that job insecurity is related to the risk or presence of depression, anxiety and emotional exhaustion, as well as to general low satisfaction with life, international comparisons are made, and negative results among workers regardless of the economic situation of the countries are highlighted, too. Moreover, methodological and conceptual contributions have been made in terms of the quality of the metrics applied. Job insecurity appears as a major problem for workers’ mental health, generating devastating effects on all kind of professional profiles and economic contexts. 


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

José Antonio Llosa-Fernández, University of Oviedo

PhD Student.

University of Oviedo, Pychology dpt.

Social Psychology area

Research area: Precarious work.

Sara Menéndez-Espina, University of Oviedo

PhD Student.

University of Oviedo, Pychology dpt.

Social Psychology area

Research area: Precarious work.

Esteban Agulló-Tomás, University of Oviedo

Associate Professor

University of Oviedo, Pychology dpt.

Social Psychology area

Research area: Precarious work.

Julio Rodríguez-Suárez, University of Oviedo

Associate Professor

University of Oviedo, Pychology dpt.

Social Psychology area

Research area: Precarious work.


Anderson, C. J., & Pontusson, J. (2007). Workers, worries and welfare states: Social protection and job insecurity in 15 OECD countries. European Journal of Political Research, 46, 211–235.

Antonakakis, N., & Collins, A. (2014). The impact of fiscal austerity on suicide: On the empirics of a modern Greek tragedy. Social Science & Medicine, 112, 39–50.

Arroyo, E., Renart, G., & Saez, M. (2015). How the economic recession has changed the likelihood of reporting poor self-rated health in Spain. International Journal for Equity in Health, 14, 149.

Ashford, S. J., Lee, C., & Bobko, P. (1989). Content, Causes, and Consequences of Job Insecurity: A Theory-Based Measure and Substantive Test. The Academy of Management Journal, 32, 803–829.

*Bernhard-Oettel, C., Rigotti, T., Clinton, M., & de Jong, J. (2013). Job insecurity and well-being in the temporary workforce: Testing volition and contract expectations as boundary conditions. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 22, 203–217.

*Bitmiş, M. G., & Ergeneli, A. (2015). How Psychological Capital Influences Burnout: The Mediating Role of Job Insecurity. 11th International Strategic Management Conference, 207, 363–368.

*Blom, V., Richter, A., Hallsten, L., & Svedberg, P. (2015). The associations between job insecurity, depressive symptoms and burnout: The role of performance-based self-esteem. Economic and Industrial Democracy.

Borenstein, M., Hedges, L. V., Higgins, P. T., & Rothstein, H. R. (2009). Introduction to Meta-Analysis. Padstow, England: Wiley.

Borg, I., & Elizur, D. (1992). Job Insecurity: Correlates, Moderators and Measurement. International Journal of Manpower, 13(2), 13–26.

Botella-Ausina, J., & Sanchez-Meca, J. (2015). Meta-análisis en ciencias sociales y de la salud. Madrid, Spain: Sintesis.

Boya, F. O., Demiral, Y., Ergor, A., Akvardar, Y., & De Witte, H. (2008). Effects of Perceived Job Insecurity on Perceived Anxiety and Depression in Nurses. Industrial Health, 46, 613–619.

*Burgard, S. A., Kalousova, L., & Seefeldt, K. S. (2012). Perceived Job Insecurity and Health The Michigan Recession and Recovery Study. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 54, 1101–1106.

Cervero-Liceras, F., McKee, M., & Legido-Quigley, H. (2015). The effects of the financial crisis and austerity measures on the Spanish health care system: A qualitative analysis of health professionals’ perceptions in the region of Valencia. Health Policy, 119, 100–106.

Cheng, G., & Chan, D. (2008). Who Suffers More from Job Insecurity? A Meta-Analytic Review. Applied Psychology, 57, 272–303.

*Cheng, T., Huang, G. H., Lee, C., & Ren, X. P. (2012). Longitudinal effects of job insecurity on employee outcomes: The moderating role of emotional intelligence and the leader-member exchange. Asia Pacific Journal of Management, 29, 709–728.

*Cheng, Y., Chen, C. W., Chen, C. J., & Chiang, T. L. (2005). Job insecurity and its association with health among employees in the Taiwanese general population. Social Science & Medicine, 61, 41–52.

*Chirumbolo, A., & Areni, A. (2010). Job insecurity influence on job performance and mental health: Testing the moderating effect of the need for closure. Economic and Industrial Democracy, 31, 195–214.

Crespo, E., Prieto Rodríguez, C., & Serrano Pascual, A. (Eds.). (2009). Trabajo, subjetividad y ciudadanía: paradojas del empleo en una sociedad en transformación [Work, subjectivity and citizenship: paradoxes of employment in a changing society]. Madrid, Spain: Universidad Complutense.

Davy, J. A., Kinicki, A. J., & Scheck, C. L. (1997). A test of job security’s direct and mediated effects on withdrawal cognitions. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 18, 323–349.

De Cuyper, N., Bernhard-Oettel, C., Berntson, E., Witte, H. D., & Alarco, B. (2008). Employability and Employees’ Well-Being: Mediation by Job Insecurity1. Applied Psychology, 57, 488–509.

*De Cuyper, N., Schreurs, B., Vander Elst, T., Baillien, E., & De Witte, H. (2014). Exemplification and perceived job insecurity: Associations with self-rated performance and emotional exhaustion. Journal of Personnel Psychology, 13, 1–10.

De Witte, H. (2000). Arbeidsethos en jobonzekerheid: meting en gevolgen voor welzijn, tevredenheid en inzet op het werk [Work ethic and job insecurity: Assessment and consequences for well-being, satisfaction and performance at work]. In R. Bouwen, K. De Witte, H.

De Witte, & T. Taillieu (Eds.), Van groep naar gemeenschap [From group to community]. Liber Amicorum Prof. Dr. Leo Lagrou (pp. 225–250). Leuven, Belgium: Garant.

De Witte, H., & De Cuyper, N. (2015). Job Insecurity and Employability. Willey Encyclopedia of Management, 5, 1–3.

De Witte, H., Pienaar, J., & De Cuyper, N. (2016). Review of 30 Years of Longitudinal Studies on the Association Between Job Insecurity and Health and Well-Being: Is There Causal Evidence?: Review of longitudinal studies on job insecurity. Australian Psychologist, 51, 18–31.

D’Souza, R., Strazdins, L., Lim, L., Broom, D., & Rodgers, B. (2003). Work and health in a contemporary society: demands, control, and insecurity. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 57, 849–854.

*Emberland, J. S., & Rundmo, T. (2010). Implications of job insecurity perceptions and job insecurity responses for psychological well-being, turnover intentions and reported risk behavior. Safety Science, 48, 452–459.

Ferrería, F. B. S., Meca, J. S., Navarro, J. M. L., & Mateu, F. N. (2014). Neuroticismo y trastorno por estrés postraumático: un estudio meta-analítico [Neuroticism and posttraumatic stress disorder: A meta-analytic study]. Revista Española de Salud Pública, 88, 17–36.

*Ferrie, J. E., Shipley, M. J., Newman, K., Stansfeld, S. A., & Marmot, M. (2005). Self-reported job insecurity and health in the Whitehall II study: potential explanations of the relationship. Social Science & Medicine, 60, 1593–1602.

Fowler, K. A., Gladden, R. M., Vagi, K. J., Barnes, J., & Frazier, L. (2015). Increase in Suicides Associated With Home Eviction and Foreclosure During the US Housing Crisis: Findings From 16 National Violent Death Reporting System States, 2005-2010. American Journal of Public Health, 105, 311–316.

Fox, E. R., Sweet, B. V., & Jensen, V. (2014). Drug Shortages: A Complex Health Care Crisis. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 89, 361–373.

*Francis, L., & Barling, J. (2005). Organizational injustice and psychological strain. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science/Revue Canadienne Des Sciences Du Comportement, 37, 250–261.

Gaddis, B. H., & Foster, J. L. (2015). Meta-Analysis of Dark Side Personality Characteristics and Critical Work Behaviors among Leaders across the Globe: Findings and Implications for Leadership Development and Executive Coaching. Applied Psychology, 64, 25–54.

Gaunt, R., & Benjamin, O. (2007). Job Insecurity, Stress and Gender. Community, Work & Family, 10, 341–355.

Greenhalgh, L., & Rosenblatt, Z. (1984). Job Insecurity: Toward Conceptual Clarity. The Academy of Management Review, 9, 438–448.

Greenhalgh, L., & Rosenblatt, Z. (2010). Evolution of Research on Job Insecurity. International Studies of Management & Organization, 40, 6–19.

Guillén, A. M., González-Begega, S., & Luque Balbona, D. (2016). Austeridad y ajustes sociales en el sur de Europa. La fragmentación del modelo de bienestar mediterráneo Austerity and social retrenchment in southern Europe. The fragmentation of the Mediterranean welfare model. Revista Española de Sociología (RES), 25, 261–272.

Hackman, J. R., & Oldham, G. R. (1976). Motivation through the design of work: test of a theory. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 16, 250–279.

Haliassos, M. (2016). The European North-South Divide: Dealing with the Poor Relative. In A. Michaelides & A. Orphanides, The Cyprus Bail-in: Policy Lessons from the Cyprus Economic Crisis (pp. 309–326). London, England: World Scientific.

Hartley, J., Jacobson, D., Klandermans, B., & Van Vuuren, T. (1990). Job Insecurity: Coping with Jobs at Risk. London, England: Sage Publications Ltd.

Hellgren, J., Sverke, M., & Isaksson, K. (1999). A Two-dimensional Approach to Job Insecurity: Consequences for Employee Attitudes and Well-being. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 8, 179–195.

*Hoege, T., Sora, B., Weber, W. G., Peiro, J. M., & Caballer, A. (2015). Job Insecurity, Worries About the Future, and Somatic Complaints in Two Economic and Cultural Contexts: A Study in Spain and Austria. International Journal of Stress Management, 22, 223–242.

Huedo-Medina, T. B., Sánchez-Meca, J., Marín-Martínez, F., & Botella, J. (2006). Assessing heterogeneity in meta-analysis: Q statistic or I2 index? Psychological Methods, 11, 193–206.

Jahoda, M. (1982). Employment and Unemployment: A Social-Psychological Analysis. Cambridge, England: Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge.

Karanikolos, M., Mladovsky, P., Cylus, J., Thomson, S., Basu, S., Stuckler, D., … McKee, M. (2013). Financial crisis, austerity, and health in Europe. Lancet, 381, 1323–1331.

*Kausto, J., Elo, A. L., Lipponen, J., & Elovainio, M. (2005). Moderating effects of job insecurity in the relationships between procedural justice and employee well-being: Gender differences. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 14, 431–452.

Kinnunen, U., Mauno, S., & Siltaloppi, M. (2011). Job insecurity, recovery and well-being at work: Recovery experiences as moderators. Economic and Industrial Democracy, 31, 179–194.

Kirkpatrick, I., & Hoque, K. (2005). The decentralisation of employment relations in the British public sector. Industrial Relations Journal, 36, 100–120.

*Kirves, K., De Cuyper, N., Kinnunen, U., & Natti, J. (2011). Perceived job insecurity and perceived employability in relation to temporary and permanent workers’ psychological symptoms: a two samples study. International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, 84, 899–909.

Klandermans, B., Hesselink, J. K., & Van Vuuren, T. (2010). Employment status and job insecurity: On the subjective appraisal of an objective status. Economic and Industrial Democracy, 31, 557–577.

Kyriopoulos, I.-I., Zavras, D., Skroumpelos, A., Mylona, K., Athanasakis, K., & Kyriopoulos, J. (2014). Barriers in access to healthcare services for chronic patients in times of austerity: an empirical approach in Greece. International Journal for Equity in Health, 13, 54.

Lafleur, J.-M., & Stanek, M. (2017). Lessons from the South-North Migration of EU Citizens in Times of Crisis. In J.-M. Lafleur & M. Stanek (Eds.), South-North Migration of EU Citizens in Times of Crisis (pp. 215–224). Cham: Springer International Publishing.

Låstad, L., Vander Elst, T., & De Witte, H. (2016). On the reciprocal relationship between individual job insecurity and job insecurity climate. Career Development International, 21, 246–261.

López-Araújo, B., & Segovia, A. O. (2010). The effect of some organizational variables on health and occupa-tional accidents. Anales de Psicología / Annals of Psychology, 26, 89–94.

Lozza, E., Libreri, C., & Bosio, A. C. (2013). Temporary employment, job insecurity and their extraorganizational outcomes. Economic and Industrial Democracy, 34, 89–105.

Maslach, C., & Jackson, S. E. (1981). The measurement of experienced burnout. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 2, 99–113.

*Mauno, S., Kinnunen, U., Makikangas, A., & Natti, J. (2005). Psychological consequences of fixed-term employment and perceived job insecurity among health care staff. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 14, 209–237.

Mauno, S., Ruokolainen, M., & Kinnunen, U. (2013). Does aging make employees more resilient to job stress? Age as a moderator in the job stressor-well-being relationship in three Finnish occupational samples. Aging & Mental Health, 17, 411–422.

Mingorance-Arnáiz, A. C., & Olmedo, R. P. (2015). Mitos y realidades del mercado de trabajo español [Myths and truths of the Spanish labor market]. Estudios de Economía Aplicada, 33, 223–258.

Muntaner, C., Solar, O., Vanroelen, C., Miguel Martinez, J., Vergara, M., Santana, V., … Benach, J. (2010). Unenployment, informal work, precarious employment, child labor, slavery, and health inequialities: Pathways and mechanisms. International Journal of Health Services, 40, 281–295.

*Naswall, K., Sverke, M., & Hellgren, J. (2005). The moderating role of personality characteristics on the relationship between job insecurity and strain. Work and Stress, 19, 37–49.

Nella, D., Panagopoulou, E., Galanis, N., Montgomery, A., Benos, A., Nella, D., … Benos, A. (2015). Consequences of Job Insecurity on the Psychological and Physical Health of Greek Civil Servants, Consequences of Job Insecurity on the Psychological and Physical Health of Greek Civil Servants. BioMed Research International, BioMed Research International, 2015, ID 673623.

Nielsen, K. J., Kines, P., Pedersen, L. M., Andersen, L. P., & Andersen, D. R. (2015). A multi-case study of the implementation of an integrated approach to safety in small enterprises. Safety Science, 71, 142–150.

Otterbach, S., & Sousa-Poza, A. (2016). Job insecurity, employability and health: an analysis for Germany across generations. Applied Economics, 48, 1303–1316.

*Otto, K., Hoffmann-Biencourt, A., & Mohr, G. (2011). Is there a buffering effect of flexibility for job attitudes and work-related strain under conditions of high job insecurity and regional unemployment rate? Economic and Industrial Democracy, 32, 609–630.

Öztürk, E. B., Karagonlar, G., & Emirza, S. (2016). Relationship Between Job Insecurity and Emotional Exhaustion: Moderating Effects of Prevention Focus and Affective Organizational Commitment. International Journal of Stress Management, No Pagination Specified.

Pecino-Medina, V., Mañas-Rodriguez, M. A., Díaz-Fúnez, P. A., López-Puga, J., & Llopis-Marín, J. M. (2015). Climate and job satisfaction in university environment. Anales de Psicología / Annals of Psychology, 31(2), 658–666.

*Piccoli, B., & De Witte, H. (2015). Job insecurity and emotional exhaustion: Testing psychological contract breach versus distributive injustice as indicators of lack of reciprocity. Work & Stress, 29, 246–263.

*Pienaar, J., De Witte, H., Hellgren, J., & Sverke, M. (2013). The cognitive/affective distinction of job insecurity: Validation and differential relations. Southern African Business Review, 17(2), 1–22.

*Richter, A., Naswall, K., Bernhard-Oettel, C., & Sverke, M. (2014). Job insecurity and well-being: The moderating role of job dependence. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 23(6), 816–829.

Rizzo, J. R., House, R. J., & Lirtzman, S. I. (1970). Role Conflict and Ambiguity in Complex Organizations. Administrative Science Quarterly, 15, 150–163.

Rodriguez-Pose, A., & von Berlepsch, V. (2014). Social Capital and Individual Happiness in Europe. Journal of Happiness Studies, 15(2), 357–386.

*Rundmo, T., & Lind, H. (2012). Job insecurity, job satisfaction and occupational health and safety. International Journal of Psychology, 47, 543–543.

*Schreurs, B., van Emmerik, H., Notelaers, G., & De Witte, H. (2010). Job insecurity and employee health: The buffering potential of job control and job self-efficacy. Work and Stress, 24, 56–72.

Schmidt, F. L., & Hunter, J. E. (2014). Methods of Meta-Analysis: Correcting error and bias in research findings. London: Sage Publications.

*Selenko, E., & Batinic, B. (2013). Job insecurity and the benefits of work. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 22, 725–736.

Serrano Rosa, M. A., Moya Albiol, L., & Salvador, A. (2009). Work Stress and Health: Cardiovascular and Endocrine Indicators. Anales de Psicología / Annals of Psychology, 25, 150–159.

Sicras, A., & Navarro-Artieda, R. (2015). Use of antidepressants in the treatment of major depressive disorder in primary care during a period of economic crisis. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, 12, 29–40.

*Silla, I., De Cuyper, N., Gracia, F. J., Peiro, J. M., & De Witte, H. (2009). Job Insecurity and Well-Being: Moderation by Employability. Journal of Happiness Studies, 10, 739–751.

*Silla, I., Gracia, F. J., & Peiró, J. M. (2005). Job Insecurity and Health-Related Outcomes among Different Types of Temporary Workers. Economic and Industrial Democracy, 26, 89–117.

*Sora, B., Caballer, A., & Peiró, J. M. (2011). Consequences of job insecurity. The moderator role of organizational support from a multilevel perspective. Psicothema, 23, 394–400.

Sora, B., De Cuyper, N., Caballer, A., Peiró, J. M., & De Witte, H. (2013). Outcomes of Job Insecurity Climate: The Role of Climate Strength. Applied Psychology, 62, 382–405.

Standing, G. (2012). El Precariado. Una Nueva Clase Social [The Precariat: The New Social Class]. Barcelona, Spain: Pasado y Presente.

*Stiglbauer, B., & Batinic, B. (2015). Proactive coping with job insecurity: Is it always beneficial to well-being? Work & Stress, 29, 264–285.

*Stiglbauer, B., Selenko, E., Batinic, B., & Jodlbauer, S. (2012). On the Link Between Job Insecurity and Turnover Intentions: Moderated Mediation by Work Involvement and Well-Being. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 17, 354–364.

*Storseth, F. (2006). Changes at work and employee reactions: Organizational elements, job insecurity, and short-term stress as predictors for employee health and safety. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 47, 541–550.

Sverke, M., Hellgren, J., & Näswall, K. (2002). No security: A meta-analysis and review of job insecurity and its consequences. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 7, 242–264.

Sverke, M., Hellgren, J., & Näswall, K. (2006). Job insecurity: A literature review. Report No 1: 2006 (p. 32). National Institution of Working Life & SALTSA. Commissioned by National Institution of Working Life & SALTSA.

Tambor, M., Pavlova, M., Rechel, B., Golinowska, S., Sowada, C., & Groot, W. (2014). The inability to pay for health services in Central and Eastern Europe: evidence from six countries. European Journal of Public Health, 24, 378–385.

Thayer, L. (1967). Communication and organization theory. In F. E. X. Dance, Human communication theory (pp. 70–115). New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

Torraco, R. J. (2016). The Persistence of Working Poor Families in a Changing U.S. Job Market An Integrative Review of the Literature. Human Resource Development Review, 15(1), 55–76.

van Zyl, L., van Eeden, C., & Rothmann, S. (2013). Job insecurity and the emotional and behavioural consequences thereof. South African Journal of Business Management, 44, 75–86.

*Vander Elst, T., Bosman, J., De Cuyper, N., Stouten, J., & De Witte, H. (2013). Does Positive Affect Buffer the Associations between Job Insecurity and Work Engagement and Psychological Distress? A Test among South African Workers. Applied Psychology, 62, 558–570.

*Vander Elst, T., De Cuyper, N., & De Witte, H. (2011). The Role of Perceived Control in the Relationship between Job Insecurity and Psychosocial Outcomes: Moderator or Mediator? Stress and Health, 27(3), E215–E227.

Vander Elst, T., De Witte, H., & De Cuyper, N. (2014). The Job Insecurity Scale: A psychometric evaluation across five European countries. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 23, 364–380.

*Vander Elst, T., Näswall, K., Bernhard-Oettel, C., De Witte, H., & Sverke, M. (2016). The effect of job insecurity on employee health complaints: A within-person analysis of the explanatory role of threats to the manifest and latent benefits of work. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 21, 65–76.

Vander Elst, T., Richter, A., Sverke, M., Näswall, K., De Cuyper, N., & De Witte, H. (2014). Threat of losing valued job features: The role of perceived control in mediating the effect of qualitative job insecurity on job strain and psychological withdrawal. Work & Stress, 28, 143–164.

*Wang, H., Lu, C., & Lu, L. (2014). Do people with traditional values suffer more from job insecurity? The moderating effects of traditionality. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 23, 107–117.

Warr, P. B. (1987). Work, Unemployment, and Mental Health. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press.

(* Studies included in the meta-analysis)

How to Cite
Llosa-Fernández, J. A., Menéndez-Espina, S., Agulló-Tomás, E., & Rodríguez-Suárez, J. (2018). Job insecurity and mental health: A meta-analytical review of the consequences of precarious work in clinical disorders. Anales De Psicología / Annals of Psychology, 34(2), 211-223.
Clinical and Health Psychology