The mental health benefits of employment: Results of a systematic meta-review

Australas Psychiatry. 2016 Aug;24(4):331-6. doi: 10.1177/1039856215618523. Epub 2016 Jan 15.


Objective: The literature on mental health in the workplace largely focuses on the negative impacts of work and how work may contribute to the development of mental disorders. The potential mental health benefits of employment have received less attention.

Method: A systematic search of reviews or meta-analyses that consider the benefits of work in regards to mental health was undertaken using academic databases. All relevant reviews were subjected to a quality appraisal.

Results: Eleven reviews were identified as meeting the inclusion criteria, with four deemed to be of at least moderate quality. The available evidence supports the proposition that work can be beneficial for an employee's well-being, particularly if good-quality supervision is present and there are favourable workplace conditions. The benefits of work are most apparent when compared with the well-documented detrimental mental health effects of unemployment.

Conclusions: The potential positive effects of good work and the role work can play in facilitating recovery from an illness and enhancing mental well-being need to be highlighted and promoted more widely. Future research should aim to further investigate what constitutes a 'good' workplace or a 'good' job in terms of mental health outcomes.

Keywords: anxiety; benefits; depression; mental health; work.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Employment / organization & administration
  • Employment / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Mental Health*
  • Organizational Culture
  • Organizational Innovation