Temporary employment and illness

University dissertation from Umeå : Umeå Universitet

Abstract: Background: It is debated whether temporary employment compared to permanent employment entails an elevated risk of illness or not, as the empirical studies have not shown a unified picture. Since a significant part of the Swedish workforce is currently working under temporary employment contracts, it is important for public health research to pay close attention to what the implications in terms of illness might be. Therefore the aim of this thesis was to explore the relationship between temporary employment and illness.Methods: This thesis was based on data from the Northern Swedish Cohort, consisting of all pupils in grade 9 in Luleå in 1981 (n=1083). The cohort was followed with extensive questionnaires. The latest follow-up was performed in year 2007, when 94% participated. To analyse the quantitative questionnaire data, logistic regression and trajectory analysis were used. A qualitative method, Grounded Theory, was also applied in this thesis to analyse interviews performed in 2011, with a strategic selection of 12 participants from the cohort.Results: Quantitative data showed that temporary employees had overall higher odds ratios for illness in terms of psychological distress and non-optimal self-rated health compared to permanent employees. This general difference in odds ratios was evident irrespective of how temporary employment was measured as well as after control for earlier health status and confounders. The qualitative analysis gained insight into temporary employment as social processes of: underling the driving force for employment; working hard for a job. The structural conditions emerged in terms of, being used and exploited on the labour market and these conditions were related to the individual strategies of adaptation and coping. In the intersection of agency, structural conditions and adaption, emotional and bodily reactions emerged, such as being worn out, worried and wrathful.Conclusion: Illness is unevenly distributed between temporary and permanent employees, with temporary employees being the unfavourable group. Striving for good and evenly distributed health conditions in the population, policy makers should aim at reducing the number of employees working in temporary contracts. In addition, there is a need to improve surveillance of the health situation among temporary employees and to reduce unfavourable conditions, such as job and financial insecurity and unemployment, among temporary employees.