Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 2012;38(6):537-545    pdf

doi:10.5271/sjweh.3286 | Published online: 27 Feb 2012, Issue date: 01 Nov 2012

Association between change in employment status and new-onset depressive symptoms in South Korea – a gender analysis

by Kim S-S, Subramanian SV, Sorensen G, Perry MJ, Christiani DC

Objectives This study aimed to investigate the association of change in employment status with new-onset depressive symptoms, particularly differences stemming from workers’ gender, in South Korea.

Methods We analyzed data from the ongoing Korean Welfare Panel Study. After excluding participants who had depressive symptoms at baseline (2007), we analyzed 2891 participants who became a precarious or permanent worker or unemployed at follow-up (2008) among waged workers who were permanent or precarious workers at baseline. Workers were classified as permanent workers if they had full-time, secure jobs and were directly hired by their employers; workers not meeting all these criteria were classified as precarious workers. Depressive symptoms were assessed annually using the 11-item Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale. To reduce potential bias due to pre-existing health conditions, we also examined the association in a subpopulation excluding participants with any pre-existing chronic disease or disability.

Results Compared to those who maintained permanent employment, workers who became unemployed following precarious employment had higher odds of developing depressive symptoms [odds ratio (OR) 2.30, 95% confidence interval (95% CI) 1.01–5.25]. In gender-stratified analyses, new-onset depressive symptoms were strongly associated with the change from precarious to permanent employment (OR 2.57, 95% CI 1.20–5.52) as well as the change from permanent to precarious employment (OR 2.88, 95% CI 1.24–6.66) among females; no significant association was observed in the male subpopulation.

Conclusions This study found that changes from precarious to permanent work or from permanent to precarious work were associated with new-onset depressive symptoms among South Korean women.