Employment transitions and mental health: an analysis from the British household panel survey

J Epidemiol Community Health. 2005 Mar;59(3):243-9. doi: 10.1136/jech.2004.019778.


Study objective: To describe the impact of changes between employment and various forms of non-employment, and vice versa, on the psychological wellbeing of men and of women.

Design: Separate multivariate models for men and for women were constructed to study the association between employment transitions and episodes of psychological distress (general health questionnaire).

Participants: 13,359 employment transitions from 5092 people aged 16-74 years in the British household panel survey from 1991 to 1998.

Main results: Transitions from paid employment to either unemployment or long term sick leave were associated with increased psychological distress for both men and women. Starting maternity leave or staying home to look after the family were also associated with psychological distress for women. Transitions from these roles to formal employment resulted in an improvement in mental health. There was some evidence that the effects were felt most strongly within six months of the transition.

Conclusions: This paper provides further evidence that movements between paid employment and various forms of non-employment, in addition to unemployment, have an impact on mental health. The emphasis on transitions between a full range of employment states for both men and women from a large population based longitudinal study and a comparison of the relative magnitude of effects are unique features of this analysis. Interventions are suggested to minimise the psychological distress associated with transitions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology*
  • Unemployment / psychology*
  • United Kingdom