Psychological Medicine

Original Articles

Job insecurity, socio-economic circumstances and depression

H. Meltzera1 c1, P. Bebbingtona2, T. Brughaa3, R. Jenkinsa4, S. McManusa5 and S. Stansfelda6

a1 Department of Health Sciences, Medical School, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK

a2 Department of Mental Health Sciences, Charles Bell House, London, UK

a3 University of Leicester, Department of Health Sciences, New Academic Unit, Leicester General Hospital, Leicester, UK

a4 Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, London, UK

a5 National Centre for Social Research, London, UK

a6 Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, Centre for Psychiatry, Old Anatomy Building, Barts and the London Queen Mary's School of Medicine & Dentistry, London, UK


Background Economic recessions are characterized by job insecurity and rising unemployment. The relationship between job insecurity and poor mental health is known. However, we do not know how this relationship is affected by individual socio-economic circumstances.

Method A random probability sample comprising 3581 respondents (1746 men and 1835 women) were selected from the third national survey of psychiatric morbidity in Great Britain. Fieldwork was carried out throughout 2007. Depression was assessed using the revised Clinical Interview Schedule and ICD-10 research diagnostic criteria administered by well-trained lay interviewers.

Results One-fifth of all working men and women aged 16–64 years felt that their job security was poor. From a multivariate analysis of several job stressors, there was an increased likelihood of depression among those agreeing that their job security was poor [odds ratio (OR) 1.58, 95% confidence intervals (CI) 1.22–2.06, p<0.001]. After controlling for age and sex, job insecurity (OR 1.86, 95% CI 1.47–2.35, p<0.001) and being in debt (OR 2.17, 95% CI 1.58–2.98, p<0.001) were independently associated with depression.

Conclusions Job insecurity has a strong association with feelings of depression even after controlling for biographic characteristics (age and sex), economic factors (personal debt) and work characteristics (type of work and level of responsibility). Despite the organizational changes needed to cope with a recession, employers should also take note of the additional distress experienced by workers at a time of great uncertainty, particularly those in less skilled jobs and in financial straits.

(Received May 29 2009)

(Revised August 10 2009)

(Accepted October 05 2009)

(Online publication November 11 2009)


c1 Address for correspondence: Professor H. Meltzer, Department of Health Sciences, Medical School, University of Leicester, 22–28 Princess Road West, Leicester LE1 6TP, UK. (Email: