Perceived job insecurity, unemployment and depressive symptoms: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective observational studies




It was shown that both job insecurity and unemployment are strongly and consistently associated with depressive symptoms. It is, however, less clear whether perceived job insecurity and unemployment constitute a comparable risk for the onset of depressive symptoms. A meta-analysis was conducted to explore this issue.


In December 2014, relevant records were identified through the databases MEDLINE, Embase and PsychINFO. Articles were included if they had been published in the last 10 years and contained a quantitative analysis on the prospective link between job insecurity and unemployment with depressive symptoms.


In 20 cohort studies within 15 articles, job insecurity and unemployment were significantly related to a higher risk of depressive symptoms, with the odds ratio (OR) being modestly higher for job insecurity (1.29, 95 % CI 1.06–1.57) than for unemployment (1.19, 95 % CI 1.11–1.28). Sensitivity analyses revealed that the effects were strongest in studies that examined younger respondents (<40 years) and used an unadjusted statistical model. By considering the length of the observational period, it was shown that unemployment ORs were higher in shorter time lags (under 1 year), while ORs for job insecurity were increased in longer exposure-outcome intervals (3–4 years). Specifically for unemployment, ORs were highest in studies that did not control for potential health selection effects and that ascertained enduring unemployment. A statistically significant publication bias was found for studies on unemployment, but not for job insecurity.


The analyses revealed that both perceived job insecurity and unemployment constitute significant risks of increased depressive symptoms in prospective observational studies. By comparing both stressors, job insecurity can pose a comparable (and even modestly increased) risk of subsequent depressive symptoms.


Perceived job insecurity Unemployment Depressive symptoms Systematic review Meta-analysis 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 73 kb)
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Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 23 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Medical SociologyUniversity Medical Center Hamburg-EppendorfHamburgGermany

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