How do labour market conditions explain the development of mental health over the life-course? a conceptual integration of the ecological model with life-course epidemiology in an integrative review of results from the Northern Swedish Cohort

Anne Hammarström, Hugo Westerlund, Urban Janlert, Pekka Virtanen, Shirin Ziaei, Per Olof Östergren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Background: The aim of this study was to contribute to the theoretical development within the field of labour market effects on mental health during life by integrating Bronfenbrenner’s ecological model with mainly earlier theoretical work on life-course theory. Methods: An integrative review was performed of all 52 publications about labour market conditions in relation to mental health from the longitudinal Northern Swedish Cohort study. Inductive and deductive qualitative content analysis were performed in relation to Bronfenbrenner’s ecological framework combined with life-course theories. Results: The following nine themes were identified: 1. Macroeconomic recession impairs mental health among young people. 2. The mental health effects on individuals of youth unemployment seem rather insensitive to recession. 3. Small but consistent negative effect of neighbourhood unemployment and other work-related disadvantaged on individuals’ mental health over life. 4. Youth unemployment becomes embodied as scars of mental ill-health over life. 5. Weak labour market attachment impairs mental health over life. 6. Bidirectional relations between health and weak labour market attachment over life. 7. Macrolevel structures are of importance for how labour market position cause poor health. 8. Unequal gender relations at work impacts negatively on mental health. 9. The agency to improve health over life in dyadic relations. Unemployment in society permeates from the macrolevel into the exolevel, defined by Bronfenbrenner as for example the labour market of parents or partners or the neighbourhood into the settings closest to the individual (the micro- and mesolevel) and affects the relations between the work, family, and leisure spheres of the individual. Neighbourhood unemployment leads to poor health among those who live there, independent of their employment status. Individuals’ exposure to unemployment and temporary employment leads to poorer mental health over the life-course. Temporal dimensions were identified and combined with Bronfenbrenner levels into a contextual life-course model Conclusion: Combining the ecosocial theory with life-course theories provides a framework for understanding the embodiment of work-related mental health over life. The labour market conditions surrounding the individual are of crucial importance for the embodiment of mental health over life, at the same time as individual agency can be health promoting. Mental health can be improved by societal efforts in regulations of the labour market.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1315
Number of pages19
JournalBMC Public Health
Volume24
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2024
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Keywords

  • Agency
  • Ecosocial theory
  • Embodiment
  • Labour market
  • Life-course theories
  • Mental health
  • Societal efforts
  • Theories

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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