Work is generally good for physical and mental health and wellbeing. Employment provides purpose, an income, promotes independence, allows us to develop social contacts and is a factor in preventing physical and mental health problems. Also, a healthy workforce is a prerequisite for economic success and improvements in health will help to increase efficiency and productivity.

Unemployment and worklessness is associated with poorer physical and mental health and well-being. Stressful working conditions, bullying, harassment and low pay are all detrimental to health. The disruption of work/life balance through long or irregular working hours and stressful commuting is also unhealthy.

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Further information about links between employment and health is available from:

Interesting Facts

  • Unemployment is a cause of premature mortality. Studies show that unemployed people with no previous illness were more likely to die at a younger age than the general population
  • A person who is unemployed once runs a greater risk of being unemployed again. This may lead to chronic job insecurity, a higher than normal exposure to poor quality jobs and a lack of control over working life, all of which have health implications
  • People with disabilities or long-term health conditions have the highest rates of unemployment in the UK
  • The most recent figures available show that only around 27% of working age adults in England with a mental illness are in employment compared to around 70% of the working age population as a whole being economically active



1 – Marmot M, Wilkinson R, editors. Social determinants of health. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 1999.
2 –  Mathers D, Schofield D. The health consequences of unemployment: The evidence. Med J Aust 1998. Available from: http://www.mja.com.au41.
3 – Bartley M. Unemployment and ill health: Understanding the relationship. J Epidemiol Community Health 1994;48:333-7.
4 – Riddel, S., Edward, S., Weedon, E. & Ahlgren, L. 2010. Disability, Skills and Employment: A review of recent statistics and literature on policy and initiatives. Centre for Research in Education, Inclusion and Diversity, University of Edinburgh.
5 – NHS Outcomes Framework.