Underemployed workers-those receiving less pay, working fewer hours, or using fewer skills than they would prefer-appear to experience negative mental health outcomes similar to the unemployed. Prior cross-sectional research provides mixed empirical evidence for this conclusion, however. The current study sought to clarify the impact of underemployment longitudinally, assessing mental health 5 times over 8 months after job loss. In addition to the commonly used indicators of underemployment, we designed a measure of cognitive complexity using the Occupational Information Network (O*NET), an extensive government database used to organize and categorize occupational information. Replicating past research, we found concurrent associations between all indexes of reemployment job quality and internalizing symptoms in the period immediately after reemployment. However, when controlling for quality of prior employment, all indicators except our measure for cognitive complexity became nonsignificant. As participants transitioned from unemployment to reemployment, only reductions in cognitive complexity were associated with sustained general internalizing symptoms. We also found that although changes in cognitive complexity had an immediate impact on the well-being of the recently reemployed, only the number of available weekly hours (full-time vs. part-time status) was relevant 6 to 12 weeks later. Our longitudinal model thus provides significant nuance to the current understanding of underemployment and mental health.
- Cognitive complexity
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Applied Psychology
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health