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Key points

  • Higher proportions of people in insecure employment report having a health problem than people in secure jobs (33.4% compared to 29.8%).
  • The relative difference in health is largest for workers in the 20-24 age group: 32% more people in insecure employment report chronic, work-limiting health issues than people in secure employment.
  • Poor health becomes more common as the workforce ages, and after ages 20-24 years the gap gradually closes between people in secure and insecure work.

This chart shows the proportion of workers who report having a work-limiting health problem that has lasted 12 months or more, split by employment security and age group, in 2021. 

Job insecurity can cause stress, which affects health, due to its unpredictability and the lack of power people can have.

In general, people in insecure work are more likely to report a long-term health problem than to people in secure work: 

  • The difference is the largest in the 20-24 and 25-34 age groups – 32% (7.3 percentage points) and 33% (7.8 percentage points) respectively.
  • Differences diminish substantially for older age groups, likely due to long-term health problems becoming more prevalent as people age.
  • In people aged 16-19, insecure employment does not appear to be associated with having a long-lasting health problem compared to secure employment. The percentage of people with long-lasting health issues in both groups is almost identical. This might also be due to long-term health conditions being relatively rare in this age group. 

Insecure employment is associated with long-lasting health issues, particularly amongst people in their 20s and early 30s. It is unclear from these data whether insecure work contributes to long-term ill health or people with chronic health problems are more likely to work in insecure jobs. Regardless of why this association occurs, interventions that tackle insecure employment would at least predominantly help workers with poorer health.

  • This indicator is based on a syntax provided to the ONS by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, modified to include zero-hour contracts. 
  • Here, insecure employment is made up of four categories: (i) individuals employed on zero-hour contracts; (ii) workers employed through an employment agency; (iii) individuals in a job which is in some way not permanent; and (iv) individuals self-employed in vulnerable sectors (caring and leisure; process, plant and machine operatives; elementary occupations). 
  • The sum of all the categories does not equal the total number of people in insecure employment, because some individuals belong to more than one category at once.

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This is part of Evidence hub: What drives health inequalities?

Data, insights and analysis exploring how the circumstances in which we live shape our health
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