A full-time gig can be hard to come by these days — assuming you even want one. Whether by choice or necessity, temporary, freelance and contract work is on the rise. But could not working the 9 to 5 be harmful to your health? Recent research points to yes.
One new study, published in Social Science and Medicine, found that people who hold temporary jobs are more apt to rate their health as poor compared to those who hold permanent positions. Another, from the journal BMC Public Health, came to a similar conclusion. Additional studies have tied lack of steady employment to mental health issues.
“There’s evidence that temporary employment deteriorates mental health due the structural and perceived job insecurity, which leads to anxiety and depression,” says Claudia Pigini, co-author of the BMC study and a professor of economics at the University of Perugia in Italy. That could, in turn, cause physical health problems, though more research is needed. (For example, if you’re stressed out you might be more likely to turn to smoking, drinking or overeating, all of which make you prone to diabetes, cancer and heart disease.)
Researchers aren’t yet sure if freelance work always causes bad health or if people who are feeling sickly are just more likely to seek out impermanent positions. But experts do suspect that the link becomes stronger the longer you hold temporary employment, says Pigini.
Looking on the Bright Side
That being said, many people are perfectly happy with temporary and freelance work arrangements. Of course, how much money you’re able to generate is an important factor, too, though. “Many temp jobs are low paying and there is an established correlation between low socioeconomic status and poor health,” says Joey Gochnour, RDN, NASM-CPT. “But personal trainers, massage therapists, registered dieticians and entrepreneurs can all work non-standard hours and still be healthy and make a nice living.”
Proof It Can Work
Gochnour a dietician and a personal trainer who holds several part-time positions (including one at the University of Texas at Austin), says that he and many others actually thrive in non-traditional employment arrangements. Prioritizing sleep, eating well-balanced meals throughout the day, and getting regular exercise may help you cope with a fluctuating schedule and cut your stress level. “Moderate aerobic exercise has been shown to be as effective as meditation in lowering blood pressure,” says Gochnour. Yoga and tai chi are also great for stress reduction.
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Socializing is important, too. “My job keeps me social, but I’m still ‘on’ so I have to make a point to see people for non-work reasons,” says Gochnour. Making time for hobbies is also smart — and healthy. Remember, he says, “Fun isn’t just for kids.