Mental illness, drinking, and the social division and structure of labor in the United States: 2003-2015

New research by Seth Prins, Sarah McKetta, Jonathan Platt, Carles Muntaner, Kerry Keyes, and Lisa Bates shows the ways that the social division and structure of labor are associated with mental illness and drinking.  Their work was published online in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.

Occupations involving manual labor and customer interaction, entertainment, sales, or other service‐oriented labor were associated with increased odds of mental illness and drinking outcomes. Physical/risky work was associated with binge and heavy drinking and serious mental illness; technical/craft work and automation were associated with binge drinking. Work characterized by higher authority, autonomy, and expertise was associated with lower odds of mental illness and drinking outcomes.

Odds Ratio for heavy drinking for a 1 standard deviation difference in each dimension of work. The dimensions of work were created from analyses of Department of Labor’s Occupational Information Network (O*NET) Database

The most compelling finding–which verifies common sense but is rarely, if ever, demonstrated in mainstream quantitative research–is that the productivity-to-pay gap (a crude indicator of economic exploitation) seems to have real consequences for mental health. For full-time workers below the top 1% of wage earners, every unpaid hour of labor was associated with higher odds of moderate and serious mental illness.

Predicted probability of moderate and serious mental illness in relation to the productivity to pay gap. Mental illness was defined using the Kessler 6 instrument.

Also important is that inequity in the division of domestic labor places women at risk of moderate and serious mental illness. This disparity represents persistent processes of oppression and economic exploitation, given that women’s gains in workforce participation by the turn of the century did not reduce their disproportionate burden of unpaid domestic work.


This entry was posted in Alcohol, Gender, Health Disparities, Mental Health, Occupation. Bookmark the permalink.

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