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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Job insecurity during recessions: effects on survivors’ work stress

Sepideh Modrek* and Mark R Cullen

Author Affiliations

General Medical Disciplines, Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, CA, USA

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:929  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-929

Published: 6 October 2013

Abstract

Background

Previous studies show a variety of negative health consequences for the remaining workforce after downsizing events. This study examined self-reported work stress from 2009–2012 in the context of a large multi-site aluminum manufacturing company that underwent severe downsizing in 2009.

Methods

This study examined the association between work stress and working at a work site that underwent severe downsizing. We assessed the level of downsizing across thirty plants in 2009 and categorized seven as having undergone severe downsizing. We linked plant-level downsizing information to individual workers’ responses to an annual work engagement survey, which included three work stress questions. From 2009 to 2012 over 14, 000 employees were asked about their experience of work stress. Though the surveys were anonymous, the surveys captured employees’ demographic and employment characteristic as well as plant location. We used hierarchical logistic regressions to compare responses of workers at severely downsized plants to workers at all other plant while controlling for demographic and plant characteristics. Responses to the work stress questions and one control question were examined.

Results

In all yearly surveys salaried workers consistently reported having more work stress than hourly workers. There was no differential in work stress for workers at severely downsized plants in 2009. In 2010 to 2012, salaried workers who remained at severely downsized plants reported significantly higher work stress than salaried workers at all other plants across multiple work stress questions. Examination of the 2006 survey confirmed that there were no pre-existing differences in work stress among salaried employees working at plants that would eventually experience severe downsizing. In addition, there was no difference in responses to the control question at severely downsized plants.

Conclusion

Salaried workers at plants with high layoffs experienced more work stress after 2009 than their counterparts at non-high layoff plants. Increased work stress is important to monitor and may be a mediating pathway through which the external economic environment leads to adverse health outcomes.

Keywords:
Economic recession; Downsizing; Work stress