Background: Relations between intrinsic job characteristics - measured by means of the Demand/Control/Support model - and mental well-being have been studied previously. The same holds for the relation between characteristics of the psychosocial work environment and socio-economic inequalities in mental well-being. However, in order to capture the contemporary work situation in a more complete manner a single focus on intrinsic job characteristics may be insufficient as other structural aspects of work (the standard employment relationship) have changed. Moreover, empirical findings have repeatedly stressed the vulnerable position of women as they are disproportionately participating in jobs with non-standard contracts. In this paper the relation between mental well-being and a multidimensional instrument for measuring the quality of employment (QOE) is investigated, together with indicators of socio-economic position, gender and intrinsic job characteristics. The QOE includes [1] employment (in)stability, [2] (low) material rewards, [3] (de)standardised working time arrangements, [4] (limited) employability opportunities, [4] collective (dis)organisation and [6] (im)balanced interpersonal power relations. Objectives: Our main hypothesis is that additional to a low quality of work, a low quality of employment has an adverse mental well-being effect and there are gender inequalities in mental well-being, however influenced by the characteristics of the psychosocial work environment and employment arrangements. Method: Cross-sectional data for 21 EU-member states was obtained from the 2010 European Social Survey. A total of 15,051 persons in salaried employment aged 15 to 65 years old is analysed. Linear regressions adjusted for age, socio-economic position and country are fit for male and female employees separately. Covariates were skill discretion, autonomy, psychological demands, social support, lack of opportunities and an indicator set of the quality of employment. Results: Differences in male mental well-being are explained by employment arrangements. As to the effect of intrinsic job characteristics on the mental well-being, employees are found to experience a negative mental well-being effect form low skill discretion, low autonomy, high psychological demands and low co-workers support. There is an additional adverse well-being effect of the quality of employment, especially the indicator of a low material reward is important predictor. However one indicator of the QOE model has no significant effect on employee well-being (employment contract) and the different features of the QOE model are not equally important to men and women. Our findings suggest that the female well-being is more vulnarable to the degree of irregular and/or unsocial working time arrangements, while male employee well-being is more affected by a lack of representation. Furtermore, in female employees there is a strong association between doing low intrinsic quality work and having low quality employment relations. Conclusion: Employment quality characteristics have an adverse effect on the mental wellbeing, additional to the intrinsic job characteristics. Differences between male and female employees are observed which are suggested to be attributable to different gender roles, coping strategies and a greater vulnerability of women to be holding destandardised contracts. Future research should concentrate on the effect of family characteristics when analysing the effect of working times arrangements for female employees. From a policy perspective these results are suggesting that governments should guard the equal chance of high quality employment arrangements, independent of the kind of job a person does, especially for women. Since female workers with low quality employment arrangements more frequently act as a buffer that protects workers with high quality employment arrangements from the risk of unemployment.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPaper presented at the 2nd Special Interest Meeting on Comparative research in health sociology and social epidemiology in European Societies
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2013
Event2nd Special Interest Meeting on Comparative research in health sociology and social epidemiology in European Societies - Ghent, Belgium
Duration: 20 Jun 201321 Jun 2013


Conference2nd Special Interest Meeting on Comparative research in health sociology and social epidemiology in European Societies

    Research areas

  • mental well-being, job quality, employment quality, gender, Europe

ID: 2324327