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Is Work bad for Health ? The Role of Constraint Versus Choice


  • Eve Caroli
  • Andrea Bassanini


This paper reviews the literature on the impact of work on health. We consider work along two dimensions: (i) the intensive margin, i.e. how many hours an individual works when employed and (ii) the extensive margin, i.e. whether an individual is in employment or not. We show that most of the evidence on the negative health impact of work found in the literature is based on situations in which workers have essentially no control (no choice) over the amount of work they provide. In essence, what is detrimental to health is not so much work per se as much as the gap which may exist between the actual and the desired amount of work, both at the intensive and extensive margins.

Suggested Citation

  • Eve Caroli & Andrea Bassanini, 2015. "Is Work bad for Health ? The Role of Constraint Versus Choice," Annals of Economics and Statistics, GENES, issue 119-120, pages 13-37.
  • Handle: RePEc:adr:anecst:y:2015:i:119-120:p:13-37
    DOI: 10.15609/annaeconstat2009.119-120.13

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    Cited by:

    1. Eric Defebvre, 2016. "Harder, better, faster... yet stronger? Working conditions and self-declaration of chronic diseases," TEPP Working Paper 2016-07, TEPP.
    2. Matteo Picchio & Jan C. van Ours, 2020. "Mental Health Effects of Retirement," De Economist, Springer, vol. 168(3), pages 419-452, September.
    3. Michael C. Knaus & Steffen Otterbach, 2019. "Work Hour Mismatch And Job Mobility: Adjustment Channels And Resolution Rates," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 57(1), pages 227-242, January.
    4. Clémentine Garrouste & Elsa Perdrix, 2022. "Is there a consensus on the health consequences of retirement? A literature review," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 36(4), pages 841-879, September.
    5. Claudio Lucifora & Daria Vigani, 2018. "Health care utilization at retirement: The role of the opportunity cost of time," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 27(12), pages 2030-2050, December.
    6. Pierre-Jean Messe & François-Charles Wolff, 2019. "Healthier when retiring earlier? Evidence from France," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 51(47), pages 5122-5143, October.
    7. Thomas Barnay & Thomas Coutrot & Thibaut De Saint Pol, 2016. "Introduction générale - Santé et itinéraire professionnel : contexte et genèse d’une enquête," Post-Print hal-01343227, HAL.
    8. Thomas Barnay & Thomas Coutrot & Thibaut de Saint Pol, 2016. "Introduction. Santé et itinéraire professionnel : contexte et genèse d’une enquête," Économie et Statistique, Programme National Persée, vol. 486(1), pages 5-15.
    9. Filomena, Mattia & Picchio, Matteo, 2021. "Retirement and health outcomes in a meta-analytical framework," GLO Discussion Paper Series 897, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    10. Vandenberghe, Vincent, 2019. "Health, Cognition and Work Capacity Beyond the Age of 50," GLO Discussion Paper Series 295, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    11. Justine Bondoux & Thomas Barnay & Thomas Renaud & Florence Jusot, 2021. "How Does Disability Affect Income? An Empirical Study on Older European Workers," Erudite Working Paper 2021-05, Erudite.
    12. Vandenberghe, Vincent, 2021. "Differentiating Retirement Age to Compensate for Career Arduousness," GLO Discussion Paper Series 803, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    13. Eve Caroli & Claudio Lucifora & Daria Vigani, 2016. "Is there a Retirement-Health Care utilization puzzle? Evidence from SHARE data in Europe," DISCE - Working Papers del Dipartimento di Economia e Finanza def049, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Dipartimenti e Istituti di Scienze Economiche (DISCE).
    14. Vincent VANDENBERGHE, 2021. "Health, cognition and work capacity beyond the age of 50: International evidence on the extensive and intensive margins of work," International Labour Review, International Labour Organization, vol. 160(2), pages 271-310, June.
    15. Vincent Vandenberghe, 2020. "The Rather Limited Role Of Mental Ill Health In Driving Work Beyond 50," LIDAM Discussion Papers IRES 2020020, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
    16. Jan C. van Ours, 2022. "How Retirement Affects Mental Health, Cognitive Skills and Mortality; An Overview of Recent Empirical Evidence," De Economist, Springer, vol. 170(3), pages 375-400, August.
    17. Miranti, Riyana & Li, Jinjing, 2020. "Working hours mismatch, job strain and mental health among mature age workers in Australia," The Journal of the Economics of Ageing, Elsevier, vol. 15(C).
    18. Thomas Barnay & Éric Defebvre, 2021. "Working conditions and disabilities in French workers: a career-long retrospective study," Erudite Working Paper 2021-14, Erudite.
    19. Éric Defebvre, 2018. "Harder, better, faster … Yet stronger? Working conditions and self‐declaration of chronic diseases," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 27(3), pages 59-76, March.
    20. Thomas Barnay & François-Olivier Baudot, 2020. "Work accident effect on the risk of benzodiazepine use and overuse," Erudite Working Paper 2020-09, Erudite.
    21. Beckmannshagen, Mattis & Schröder, Carsten, 2022. "Earnings inequality and working hours mismatch," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(C).
    22. Hélène Blake & Clémentine Garrouste, 2017. "Collateral effects of a pension reform in France," Working Papers hal-01500683, HAL.

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