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Risk and resilience: health inequalities, working conditions and sickness benefit arrangements: analysis from the 2010 European Working Conditions survey

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Clare Bambra


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In this article we ask whether the level of sickness benefit provision protects the health of employees, particularly those who are most exposed to hazardous working conditions or who have a little education. The study uses the European Working Condition Survey that includes information on 20,626 individuals from 28 countries. Health was measured by self-reported mental wellbeing and self-rated general health. Country-level sickness benefit provision was constructed using spending data from Eurostat. Group-specific associations were fitted using cross-level interaction terms between sickness benefit provision and physical and psychosocial working conditions respectively, as well as those with little education. The mental wellbeing of employees exposed to psychosocial job strain and physical hazards, or who had little education, was better in countries that offer more generous sickness benefit. These results were found in both men and women and were robust to the inclusion of GDP and country fixed effects. In the analyses of self-reported general health, few group-specific associations were found. This article concludes that generous sickness benefit provision may strengthen employee's resilience against mental health risks at work and risks associated with little education. Consequently, in countries with a generous provision of sickness benefit, social inequalities in mental health are smaller.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Van-der-Wel K, Bambra C, Dragano N, Eikemo T, Lunau T

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Sociology of Health & Illness

Year: 2015

Volume: 37

Issue: 8

Pages: 1157-1172

Print publication date: 01/11/2015

Online publication date: 22/06/2015

Acceptance date: 01/01/2015

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.


DOI: 10.1111/1467-9566.12293


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