Temporary work and depressive symptoms: a propensity score analysis

Soc Sci Med. 2010 Jun;70(12):1982-1987. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2010.02.008. Epub 2010 Mar 9.


Recent decades have seen a tremendous increase in the complexity of work arrangements, through job sharing, flexible hours, career breaks, compressed work weeks, shift work, reduced job security, and part-time, contract and temporary work. In this study, we focus on one specific group of workers that arguably most embodies non-standard employment, namely temporary workers, and estimate the effect of this type of employment on depressive symptom severity. Accounting for the possibility of mental health selection into temporary work through propensity score analysis, we isolate the direct effects of temporary work on depressive symptoms with varying lags of time since exposure. We use prospective data from the U.S. National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79), which has followed, longitudinally, from 1979 to the present, a nationally representative cohort of American men and women between 14 and 22 years of age in 1979. Three propensity score models were estimated, to capture the effect of different time lags (immediately following exposure, and 2 and 4 years post exposure) between the period of exposure to the outcome. The only significant effects were found among those who had been exposed to temporary work in the two years preceding the outcome measurement. These workers report 1.803 additional depressive symptoms from having experienced this work status (than if they had not been exposed). Moreover, this difference is both statistically and substantively significant, as it represents a 50% increase from the average level of depressive symptoms in this population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Employment / psychology*
  • Employment / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Propensity Score*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • United States / epidemiology