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Scand J Public Health. 2012 Jun;40(4):360-7. doi: 10.1177/1403494812450092.

Precariousness and discontinuous work history in association with health.

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Faculty of Medicine, Institute of Health Sciences, University of Oulu, Aapistie 5 B, Oulu, Finland.



Precarious type of employment may have a negative impact on health, notably on low psychological wellbeing. The basis of the former relationship is constructed by definition and operationalisation of precariousness. In this research, we first experimented with a construct of work history in the operationalisation of precariousness and second studied the relationship between precariousness and health.


The research data originated from a large population-based birth cohort (NFBC 1966). The study sample consists of 3449 respondents to the postal questionnaire at the age of 31 and the information supplemented by the register data of the Finnish Centre for Pensions. Health was measured by self-reports of doctor-diagnosed/treated illnesses and HSCL-25 for mental symptoms.


Our operationalisation with a construct of discontinuous work history captured the precarious insecure relation to work. The precarious workers were found to have proportionally more mental symptoms in comparison with permanent workers. The perception of distress was stronger among precarious workers who perceived high job insecurity. However, there were no differences in doctor-diagnosed/treated illnesses between precarious and permanent workers.


The study suggests that the construct of work history is a useful element in defining precariousness. The study also illustrates the association of precariousness, perceived job insecurity, and mental distress. The study suggests further research on disadvantages experienced by precarious workers.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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