Objectives The purpose of this review was to systematically summarise the literature on the health effects of employment.
Methods A search for prospective studies investigating the effect of employment on health was executed in several electronic databases, and references of selected publications were checked. Subsequently, the methodological quality of each study was assessed by predefined criteria. To draw conclusions about the health effect of employment, a best evidence synthesis was used, and if possible, data were pooled.
Results 33 prospective studies were included, of which 23 were of high quality. Strong evidence was found for a protective effect of employment on depression and general mental health. Pooled effect sizes showed favourable effects on depression (OR=0.52; 95% CI 0.33 to 0.83) and psychological distress (OR=0.79; 95% CI 0.72 to 0.86). Insufficient evidence was found for general health, physical health and mortality due to lack of studies or inconsistent findings.
Conclusions This systematic review indicates that employment is beneficial for health, particularly for depression and general mental health. There is a need for more research on the effects of employment on specific physical health effects and mortality to fill the knowledge gaps.
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