Downsizing and health at the United States Department of Energy

Am J Ind Med. 2003 Nov;44(5):481-91. doi: 10.1002/ajim.10303.


Background: Downsizing and reorganization not only affect workers who lose their jobs, but even workers who retain their jobs are affected in negative ways. The present study measured how downsizing was accomplished at five Department of Energy facilities by evaluating communication with workers, perceived fairness of the process, and job characteristics, and how each of these were associated with worker health and well-being.

Methods: The researchers collected quantitative data using structured surveys, and captured qualitative data using interviews, focus groups, and open-ended survey responses.

Results: Employees, who felt that the downsizing process was fair, and that communication was open and honest, reported fewer medical symptoms, lower survivor syndrome, and more job security than their counterparts. Employees who were less immediately impacted by downsizing reported fewer medical symptoms than those who were more directly involved (e.g., delivered layoff notices, changed jobs, etc.) Thus, downsizing appears to affect the health of survivors, through the effects of the downsizing process.

Conclusion: This examination of the effect of downsizing on the physical and mental health of surviving employees supports the conclusion that the impact of downsizing is not limited to those who lose their jobs and highlights the potential repercussions of downsizing on the emotional health of employees.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Disease / etiology
  • Disease / psychology*
  • Female
  • Government Agencies / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Personnel Downsizing / psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • United States