Mental Health and Working Conditions in European Countries

38 Pages Posted: 1 Feb 2010

See all articles by Elena Cottini

Elena Cottini

Università di Milano Cattolica

Claudio Lucifora

Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore di Milano ; IZA Institute of Labor Economics


Increased pressure for labour market flexibility and increasing demand over workers' performance have fostered the idea that working conditions, in most European countries, have progressively deteriorated with adverse effects on psychological well being and mental health. This paper investigates the links between contractual arrangements, working conditions and mental health using time-series cross-section data for 15 European countries. We use different waves of the European Working Conditions Survey (1995, 2000, 2005) to document recent patterns in mental health at the workplace and to assess how these are related to various job attributes. We find substantial heterogeneity in mental health incidence at the workplace both across workers, as well as between countries. Given population heterogeneity in responses to mental health questions, we implement a methodology for differential reporting in ordered response models which allows for threshold shifts. We show that a set of workplace attributes, such as: working in shifts, performing complex and intensive tasks and having restricted job autonomy lead to a higher probability of reporting mental health problems. We also provide evidence of a positive causal effect of adverse overall working conditions on mental health distress. We show that labour market institutions, and health and safety regulations can explain a significant part of cross-country differences.

Keywords: working conditions, mental health, health and safety regulation, labour market institutions

JEL Classification: C25, I10, J81, J28

Suggested Citation

Cottini, Elena and Lucifora, Claudio, Mental Health and Working Conditions in European Countries. IZA Discussion Paper No. 4717, Available at SSRN: or

Elena Cottini (Contact Author)

Università di Milano Cattolica ( email )

Claudio Lucifora

Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore di Milano ( email )

Department of Economics and Finance
Largo Gemelli, 1
20123 Milano
+39 027 234 2525 (Phone)
+39 027 234 2781 (Fax)

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072

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