Working fewer hours than you want to has an impact on mental health

Part-time work can be a real benefit for many people, allowing them to combine work with other responsibilities or to free up time for other activities. But some people in the UK are working part-time when they would rather be working full-time.

Researchers from the University of Stirling and University College Dublin wanted to find out if this type of ‘underemployment’, where working hours are less than the person wants has an impact on their mental health.

Using 18 years of data from the British Household Panel Survey, the researchers found that underemployment is associated with poorer mental health by increasing levels of psychological distress. This effect was similar to the decline in mental health seen in people being without work through unemployment.

Key findings


• Moving to underemployment increased psychological distress
• Underemployment effect is comparable to the psychological distress increases after job loss
• Returning to full-time work may reverse the effect of underemployment

The researchers suggest that policy interventions geared towards improving career opportunities for part-time workers would potentially improve losses in psychological wellbeing experienced by people who want to move out of part-time work.

Read the research here