Young people on zero-hours contracts are less likely to be in good health and more likely to suffer from mental health problems, according to the findings of a new study published today.
Researchers from the Centre for Longitudinal Studies, based at the University College London, analysed data from more than 7,700 people living in England who were born in 1989-90 as part of its ‘Next Steps‘ study.
Those aged under the age of 25 and in zero-hours employment were less likely to report they were feeling healthy, when compared to those in secure employment.
Zero-hours employment is notoriously insecure and the contracts offer no guarantee of hours, and those on the contracts are often denied the same rights as other workers in more secure employment.
The study also found that those of zero-hours contracts were at a greater risk of psychological distress. However, they were still less likely to suffer ill mental health than unemployed people.
The report’s lead author, Dr Morag Henderson, said: “Millennials have faced a number of challenges as they entered the world of work. They joined the labour market at the height of the most recent financial crisis and faced higher than ever university fees and student loan debt.
“There is evidence that those with a precarious relationship to the labour market, such as shift workers, zero-hours contract holders and the unemployed are more at risk of poor mental health and physical health than their peers.
“One explanation for these findings is that financial stress or the stress associated with having a low-status job increases the risk of poor mental health.
“It may also be that the worry of having no work or irregular work triggers physical symptoms of stress, including chest pain, headaches and muscle tension.”
Craig Thorley, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), added: “Efforts to improve the UK’s mental health must recognise the important relationship between health and work.
“More people than ever are working on zero-hours contracts in the UK, and this new data shows this to be contributing to poorer mental health among younger workers.
“Government and employers must work together to promote better quality jobs which enhance, rather than damage, mental health and wellbeing.
“Without this, we risk seeing increased demand for mental health services, reduced productivity, and more young people moving on to out-of-work sickness benefits.”