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Logo of oenvmedOccupational and Environmental MedicineVisit this articleSubmit a manuscriptReceive email alertsContact usBMJ
Occup Environ Med. 2007 May; 64(5): 290.
PMCID: PMC2092540

Downsizing really is bad for workers' mental health

Downsizing at work might be expected to erode mental health, but only now has it been confirmed. Policymakers, employers, and occupational therapists must take note of its heavy burden on those affected and on society.

Rate ratios of prescriptions for psychotropic drugs—indicating poor mental health—were significantly higher for men who lost or left their job after downsizing (1.64) and even those who retained their jobs (1.49) than those on a reference group who did not experience downsizing. This was true for women but less pronounced. The effect was greater by occupational state, with rate ratios of 1.87 for non‐manual and 1.70 for manual male workers after downsizing and 2.16 for manual workers who lost or left their job in consequence. Only non‐manual female workers still employed after downsizing seemed similarly affected (rate ratio 1.20). What underlies these results—changes in work after downsizing or a general difference in the meaning of work to men and women—is unclear.

The prospective study, part of an ongoing cohort study, examined prescriptions for psychotropic drugs during 1994–2000 among local government workers in four Finnish cities, during a major national recession in 1991–3, when unemployment rose to 17%. Among the 26 682 workers aged 19–62 years, 22 382 kept their jobs, of whom 4783 worked in groups that were greatly downsized, and 4271 lost or left their jobs. The national register provided data on prescriptions linked to personal identity number.

Observational studies relying on self reported data have hinted at similar findings.

[filled triangle] Kivimäki M, et al.Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 2007;61:154‐158.

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