Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




William R. Avison

2nd Supervisor

Andrea Willson

Joint Supervisor


Inadequate employment, through unemployment or underemployment is expected to have consequences for the health and well-being of Canadians. This dissertation presents three studies centered on the relationship between underemployment and mental health. In the first study, ideal indicators for underemployment are described, and the stress process model is proposed as a theoretical framework for understanding the relationship between underemployment and adverse health outcomes. The second and third studies use data from a community-based survey conducted in London, Ontario, Canada in 1994/5 and 1996/7. Four indicators of underemployment are used including: lower income or benefits than in a previous job, involuntary part-time work, or over-education. The second study tests for the effects of social selection or social causation between psychological distress and employment status using both survey waves. A reciprocal process is found only for unemployment, where elevated psychological distress increases the odds of job loss by the second interview, and losing adequate employment is associated with elevated psychological distress. The transition into or out of underemployment is not associated with psychological distress. The third study focuses on over-education and its association with psychological distress using a stress process model. Potential mediators are tested including chronic strain, financial strain, work-satisfaction, self-esteem, and mastery. Among males, over-education is a significant predictor of elevated psychological distress and lower self-esteem and work satisfaction. For females, over-education is only associated with elevated psychological distress and lower work satisfaction until household income is controlled for. Gender differences are highlighted in this study, demonstrating that males and females experience underemployment differently, and the greater salience of employment status for men’s mental health. In addition, support is found for the stress process model as a framework for investigating the mechanisms that link the experience of employment to adverse health outcomes.

Included in

Sociology Commons