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Exposure to temporary employment and job insecurity: a longitudinal study of the health effects
  1. Pekka Virtanen1,2,
  2. Urban Janlert2,
  3. Anne Hammarström2
  1. 1Tampere School of Public Health, University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland
  2. 2Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, University of Umeå, Umeå , Sweden
  1. Correspondence to Pekka Virtanen, Tampere School of Public Health, University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland; pekka.j.virtanen{at}


Objective This study analysed interactions between job insecurity and temporary employment and health. We tested the violation hypothesis (whether permanent employment increases the health risk associated with job insecurity) and the intensification hypothesis (whether temporary employment increases the health risk associated with job insecurity) in a longitudinal setting. Previous research on this topic is scarce and based on cross-sectional data.

Methods A population cohort (n=1071) was surveyed at age 30 and age 42. Exposure to temporary employment during this 12-year period was elicited with a job-time matrix and measured as the score of 6-month periods. Exposure to job insecurity was measured according to the perceived threat of unemployment. Health at follow-up was assessed as optimal versus suboptimal self-rated health, sleep quality and mental health. In addition to sociodemographics and baseline health, the analyses were adjusted for exposure to unemployment, non-employment and self-employment during the 12-year period.

Results 26% of participants had been exposed to temporary employment. The effect of job insecurity on health was the same in the exposed and unexposed groups, that is the violation hypothesis was not supported. Non-significant interactions between the exposures and all health outcomes also indicated null findings regarding the intensification hypothesis.

Conclusions These findings suggest that perceived job insecurity can lead to adverse health effects in both permanent and temporary employees. Policies should aim to improve work-related well-being by reducing job insecurity. Efforts towards ‘flexicurity’ are important, but it is equally important to remember that a significant proportion of employees with a permanent contract experience job insecurity.

  • Job insecurity
  • temporary employment
  • self rated health
  • psychological distress
  • sleep
  • public health
  • longitudinal studies

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  • Funding This work was partially supported by the Umeå Centre for Global Health Research, with support from FAS, the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research (grant no. 2006-1512) and by the Academy of Finland (grant no. 132668).

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the Regional Ethics Review Board in Umeå.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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