Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Workshop on Mental Health, Work and the Economy March 24th

This workshop, which place in Stirling on March 24th, brought together academics across economics, psychology and health disciplines as well as practitioners and policy-makers to examine the emerging literature on mental health, work and the economy. The workshop critically addressed several themes including, but not limited to, the economic determinants of well-being and mental health, the contribution of mental health to life-long economic trajectories, the potential for expansion of the mental health services, and the role of mental health in labour market policy. This workshop is the latest in a series of workshops on well-being and economics that have been held in Stirling in the last few years. Details of the previous workshop held at the Scottish Parliament are available below:

See the twitter hashtag #mhandwork for further details. Also see here and here for detailed relevant readings and links.

The workshop included debate on some of the key questions in the area of mental health and employment, including:

What is the state of empirical evidence on the relationships between mental health and employment? What gaps remain?

How should evidence of relationships between mental health and employment translate into policy?

What ethical considerations does the use of mandatory psychological interventions and the emergence of psychological conditionality as part of workfare programmes raise?

What potential harm might be created by inappropriate use of psychological approaches in work activation settings?

Preliminary Programme:

8.45am to 9am: Registration 

9am to 9.15am: Introduction and Aims 

9.15am to 9.45am: Victoria Mousteri (PhD Student Stirling)

In the aftermath of the Great Recession, the sharp increase in unemployment has given rise to a broad discussion regarding the long-run welfare effects of unemployment. The objective of the current study is to examine unemployment scarring and to test whether unemployment has long-term repercussions for individual well-being. The relationship linking past unemployment experiences to later life satisfaction is identified across ten European countries: Sweden, Denmark, Italy, Spain, Germany, France, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands. The analysis is based on a longitudinal, balanced sample created out of the retrospective employment history data of SHARE’s third wave, covering the period from 1970 to 2009, as well as the survey’s contemporary data on respondents’ life conditions collected in 2004-5, 2006-7 and 2011-12. The scarring effect of unemployment on life satisfaction is identified using a linear model estimated with individual random-effects and country level mixed-effects techniques. The estimation results indicate that having gone through one additional six-month spell of unemployment predicts lower life satisfaction by approximately 0.05 standard deviations after the age of 50. The findings also suggest that unemployment experiences acquainted during the sensitive period of one’s early years in the market could have a long-run psychological scarring effect on human welfare. 

9.45am to 10.15am: Daniel Kopasker (PhD Student Aberdeen, with Catia Montagna, and Keith Bender)

The Mental Health Effects of Work-Related Economic Insecurity

This paper estimates the impact of work-related economic insecurity on the mental health of working-age adults in the UK. Data on the mental health of the UK workforce is sourced from the GHQ-12 index within the British Household Panel Survey between 1993 and 2007. By using exogenous fluctuations in economic conditions as an identification strategy, we have been able to support theoretical predictions regarding the direction of simultaneity bias within the economic insecurity and mental health relationship. The results suggest that even at a lower bound of the estimates, work-related economic insecurity has a large, negative, and statistically significant effect on the mental health of working-age males. Consistent with some of the existing literature, the effect is not observed in females. Importantly, the detrimental effect in males is observed regardless of future unemployment outcomes. As such, the welfare loss resulting from work-related economic insecurity represents a largely hidden health cost associated with employment in the UK. 

10.15am to 10.45am: Coffee 

10.45am to 11.15am: Michael Daly and Liam Delaney (Stirling)

There has been a great deal of research examining the effect of unemployment on well-being and mental health. It is now widely agreed that unemployment has costs to individuals in psychological terms that outweigh the associated income and wealth loss. However, a better understanding of the relationship between unemployment and mental health over time is required. As well as being a factor influencing mental ill-health, unemployment may clearly itself be influenced by mental health. The extent to which these relationships build up from childhood through adolescence and into early- and mid-adulthood is a key question which it is necessary to address in order to understand the role of education and employment policies. We utilise a number of large cohort study data-sets from around the world to provide estimates to date of the dual relationship between unemployment and mental ill-health and the factors influencing this relationship. We further examine the extent to which mental health and well-being influences unemployment at different stages of the life course and the business cycle.

11.15am to 12.00pm: Dr. Adam Coutts (Cambridge University) 

The Health and Well-being Effects of Active Labour Market Programmes

1200 to 1245pm: Lunch 

12.45pm to 1.25pm: Dr. Aaron Reeves (Oxford University)

During the 2007–11 recessions in Europe, suicide increases were concentrated in men but also observed among women. Yet, there were substantial differences across countries in how the economic crisis affected suicide rates. This cross-national variation suggests that policy may alter the association between unemployment and suicide. Using suicide data across 20 countries between 1981 and 2011, I examine the aggregate-level association between unemployment rates and suicide rates, as well as potential mitigating effects of alternative forms of social protection and gender equality. As expected, rising unemployment is associated with rising suicides, for both men and women. I also find that some (but not all) forms of social protection spending may moderate the link between unemployment and suicide. Similarly, the unemployment-suicide association is weaker in countries with greater gender equality. Yet, the moderating effect of these policy contexts is greater for men than for women.

1.25pm to 2.05pm Professor Wendy Loretto (Edinburgh University)

Later-life work and employee mental health: a neglected aspect of Extending Working Lives policy agenda?

In the context of population ageing across many economies a focus on extending working life and delaying retirement has come to the fore. Policies typically emphasise the mutual benefits – for societies, for employing organisations and for older employees themselves. However, the (mental) health benefits of working for longer have not been firmly demonstrated. This presentation will draw upon a variety of mainly UK-based studies to cast a critical eye on the ways in which later life working may affect individuals’ health and well-being.  In particular it will aim to differentiate between different subgroups of ‘older workers’ in order to highlight the problems with treating this segment of the workforce as a homogeneous unit.

2.05pm to 2.45pm: Dr. Lynne Friedli (Researcher at Hubbub at the Wellcome Collection)

My paper is concerned with the use of psychological interventions in workfare (work for your benefits) programmes and in the rise of psychological conditionality: the requirement to demonstrate certain attitudes and beliefs in order to receive social security and other benefits, notably cheap food.  A certain psychological fundamentalism, and the discourse of psychological deficit, now dominate the welfare to work industry and, I will argue, contribute centrally to stigmatising (and disciplining) people who are unemployed or receiving income related benefits.  I will reflect on the growing influence of psychology and the role of psycho-policy in formulating and gaining consent for the current regime of welfare reform, as well as the implications of efforts to merge health and employment services.  These developments have been a catalyst for widespread resistance from claimants, mental health and disability rights activists and increasingly, from within the psy-professions.  They raise profound ethical questions which urgently need our attention.

2.45pm to 3.40pm: Panel Discussion 

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