The mental health of workers: the role of job quality and physical activity

Bracci, Anna and Soldini, Emiliano and Lisi, Angela (2021) The mental health of workers: the role of job quality and physical activity. In: 11th International Conference of Panel Data Users in Switzerland. (Unpublished)

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Although the relevance of considering the joint effect of work- and non-work activities as health factors, these relationships have been widely neglected in the literature. Following a multidimensional definition of job quality, we identify a plurality of both extrinsic and intrinsic conditions at work. Thus, exploiting the panel nature of the SHP, we estimate fixed-effects linear models with two mental health outcomes (Mental Health Index and Vitality Index) in order to control for bias from unobservable omitted variables bias. The empirical evidence seems to corroborate the positive relations between specific characteristics of job quality and self-perceived mental health, whereas non-work activity seems to play a minor role in mental health. And, concerning job quality, working conditions seem to be more correlated to workers' wellbeing compared to the traditional employment conditions (pay and contractual status). We identify, indeed, many working conditions connected to the security, ergonomic and working time quality dimensions as potential drivers for the Mental Health Index, while security, skill and ergonomic dimensions are relevant in the Vitality Index. Additionally, our results seem to support the hypothesis that occupational physical activity – captured by specific ergonomic risks - is detrimental to mental health. The findings are relevant for policy purposes as the structural change in the labour market has transformed the social patterns and imply new health and safety risks for workers. Methodologically, this study highlights how unobservables deserve attention in both the psychological and epidemiological literature.

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