Working conditions and mental health functioning among young public sector employees

Jaakko Harkko, Hertta Ranta, Tea Lallukka, Hilla Nordquist, Minna Mänty, Anne Kouvonen

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Background: The associations between adverse working conditions and mental disorders are well established. However, associations between adverse working conditions and poor mental health functioning is a less explored area. This study examines these associations among younger public sector employees of the City of Helsinki, Finland.

Methods: We use data from the Young Helsinki Health Study with a representative sample of the employees of the City of Helsinki, aged 19–39 years (n=4 217). Mental health functioning was measured with mental composite summary of the Short Form 36. Working conditions included factors related to both the psychosocial (job control and job demands) and the physical work environment (physical workload). To examine the associations, we used logistic regression models with adjustments for socio-demographics, other working conditions and health-related covariates.

Results: After adjustment for sociodemographic characteristics, poor health, health behaviours and other occupational exposures, high job demands (OR=1.69; 95% CI=1.45–1.97) and low job control (OR=1.65; 95% CI=1.40–1.94) were associated with poor mental health functioning. High physical workload was not associated with the outcome (OR=0.87; 95% CI=0.72–1.05) after the adjustments.

Conclusions: Adverse psychosocial working conditions were associated with mental health functioning, whereas physical working conditions were not. As impaired functioning is likely to cause health-related lost productivity and can lead to work disability, further research and interventions with a balanced approach focusing on both psychosocial working conditions and mental health functioning are recommended.
Original languageEnglish
JournalScandinavian journal of public health
Early online date05 Oct 2021
Publication statusEarly online date - 05 Oct 2021


  • SF-36
  • job demand
  • job control
  • mental disorders
  • physical workload
  • working conditions
  • mental component summary
  • younger employees
  • Mental health functioning
  • municipal employees


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