Is Any Job Really Better Than No Job at All?

If you’ve ever been unemployed, you know how stressful it is. Being laid off can be emotionally devastating. And unemployment puts you at a higher risk for major depression, substance abuse and even suicide, according to reporting by CNN. When put in that situation, most of us would scramble to find a new job.

Job pbs rewireBut recent research suggests that while you shouldn’t necessarily turn down the first job you’re offered—you need to eat and pay bills, after all—you should be on guard about how it impacts your health.

A study by Tarani Chandola and Nan Zhang of the University of Manchester in the U.K. tracked the job searches of more than 1,000 adults who were unemployed in 2009 and 2010.

The folks who found good jobs after being unemployed experienced an improvement in their mental health, as you would expect. But the ones who took jobs that were stressful, unstable or low-paying didn’t experience an improvement. In fact, their health got worse.

The cost of a job

Chandola said in an interview with ResearchGate News that the team wanted to investigate the common belief that any job is better than no job at all. And while that might be true when it comes to taking care of living expenses, it certainly isn’t when it comes to your health, they found.

When previously unemployed folks took a low-quality job, “their levels of mental health were very similar to those who remained unemployed,” Chandola said. “But the levels of chronic stress related biomarkers among those who started working in bad jobs were much higher than their peers who remained unemployed.”

Stress-linked biomarkers include elevated hormone levels, blood pressure and cholesterol, among other indicators. These involuntary, stress-induced reactions in the body happen separately from our perceptions of our own mental health, and experiencing these chemical responses for too long can have averse affects on physical and mental health.

Keep your health in mind

If you’re desperate for a job and you land one that’s less than ideal, it’s not a bad idea to take it, Chandola said. But you should check in with yourself regularly and be on the hunt for something better. After all, we spend a lot of our time at work. It’s worth it to find an environment that’s happy and healthy.

Job pbs rewireChandola also pointed out that workplaces have a responsibility for the health of their employees. Communicate with your doctor and your boss about how the conditions are affecting you. You might be able to work out an arrangement that’s healthier for you in the long-run.

“If… workers suspect that their work is making them ill, they need to do something about it,” he said. “This does not mean leaving their bad jobs, but rather informing their doctor about this, making their managers know about how their work is disabling them. Employers have a duty of protection for the health of their workers, and need to make reasonable adjustments if they have a disability.”

Katie Moritz

Katie Moritz is Rewire’s web editor and a Pisces who enjoys thrift stores, rock concerts and pho. She covered politics for a newspaper in Juneau, Alaska, before driving down to balmy Minnesota to help produce long-standing public affairs show “Almanac” at Twin Cities PBS. Now she works on this here website. Reach her via email at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz and on Instagram @yepilikeit.