Precarious Work: How Does It Affect Mental Health?

It’s normal to get a little stressed out at work every now and then. We all have different pressures and tasks – no one is immune to feeling a bit overwhelmed. 

But when your job is constantly causing serious mental health concerns, then you have a problem.

That’s a reality for most people who are in precarious work – jobs that are unstable, low-paying and don’t offer any benefits. They also don’t have anyone advocating for workers’ rights, leaving employees very much alone. 

While physical health is definitely an issue in these types of jobs, one of the biggest impacts is on workers mental health. Studies have shown that precarious workers are twice as likely to have mental health problems, with the most common issues being depression, anxiety and extreme stress.

Here are a few of the ways precarious work can affect mental health.


Fear of the unknown can cause major anxiety, especially at your job. One of the most frustrating aspects of precarious work is that schedules, shifts and even the job itself, are never secure. That means workers often don’t know their schedule until the day of or a couple of days before. This unpredictability causes major stress for not only scheduling your personal life but also having no idea what your pay cheque will look like. Knowing that you could be fired at any time or have all of your shifts cut during a pay period only adds to the stress.

Weakened Social and Community Ties

A major casualty of precarious work is your personal life. The unpredictability makes it nearly impossible to make commitments to friends or family and creates social isolation.This can be especially stressful if you have children who depend on you. It’s also harder to put down roots in a community. Many have to delay or give up the plan of buying a house or starting a family due to lack of income and insecurity of the job. 

Little Access to Resources

Not only do these jobs cause mental health issues, they lack the support to deal with them. They don’t provide resources for employees and typically don’t offer any prescription or medical benefits. Even if an employee finds a resource to help them with their mental health issues, they often can’t access those services because they can’t take time off or make the commitment to an appointment. 


Alberta has laws and resources in place that do make to protect your physical health. The Alberta Human Rights Commission outlines what is expected of employers and if you feel your health and safety is being violated you can contact them confidentially.  Alberta also has a wide range of mental health resources available that you can find here. 

Your job should never cause you to experience any health issues, mental or physical. The reality is that in precarious work health issues have become the norm and that is unacceptable. 

We're here to help

Do you have any questions about your rights in the workplace or need someone to talk to about your job stress? Contact one of our free labour counsellors at (403) 259-4608 or

The Distress Line is a great resource to call if you are feeling overwhelmed and need someone to talk to. 

You can contact them at 403.266.HELP (4357) in Calgary, 
780-482-HELP (4357) in Edmonton and 1-800-232-7288 in rural areas.

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