Gig Economy Influences Future Drinking Habits of Young Workers

By Alana Smart / April 23, 2024 / Blog ,

Gig Economy Influences Future Drinking Habits of Young Workers

A new study warns that the gig economy may have a detrimental impact on young people’s health. 

The gig economy, characterized by its reliance on independent contractors and freelancers who undertake temporary, flexible jobs, has become a significant segment of the modern economy. Many workers are drawn to the idea of flexible working hours and supplemental income opportunities, although motivations for entering vary.

Unfortunately, a recent study finds that people who accept gig economy jobs are 43% more likely to develop alcohol-related illnesses than those with full-time permanent employment.

Published in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine, the study conducted by researchers led by Emelie Thern, an assistant professor of occupational medicine at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, delves into the ramifications of gig employment on long-term health outcomes.

Drawing from a comprehensive nationwide register of nearly 340,000 participants born between 1973 and 1976, the research offers crucial insights into the nexus between employment status and health outcomes. Three years after completing their highest level of education, participants in a long-term Swedish work and health research project reported their employment status. Three years post-graduation was “deemed to be the most suitable time point to determine the end of the school-to-work transition.”

Researchers divided the participants’ employment into five categories: precarious gig employment, long-term unemployment, substandard employment, standard full-time employment, and other. In contrast to the stability of full-time positions, substandard employment features lower pay, longer hours, fewer benefits, and diminished job security.

Out of all the young adults participating in the study, approximately 39% had standard employment. Of the others, 32% had substandard employment, and almost 13% had precarious employment.

The study found that the participants with unstable gig jobs initially seemed to be almost twice as likely as those with full-time employment to have an alcohol-related illness. The long-term unemployed were nearly three times more prone. However, researchers then accounted for other potentially influential factors, such as mental health and alcohol-related health problems. Afterward, gig workers’ risk dropped to about 43% greater than those with full-time jobs. Taking those factors into account, the long-term unemployed were nearly twice as likely to have an alcohol-related illness, and those with substandard employment were 15% more likely to do so.

The findings suggest that having a full-time job, even if it’s not ideal, is better for a person’s health than having no job or a “gig” job. This is especially important for young adults who are more likely to be in precarious employment situations. Referring to the even higher risk of alcohol-related illness among those who experienced long-term unemployment as young adults, the researchers write, “To escape unemployment, several young people take the first job offered, which is generally more precarious, with less security, lower wages, and longer hours. The results of the current study suggest that this decision appears to be marginally more beneficial compared with remaining unemployed, which adds to the discussion of whether any job is really better than no job at all.”



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