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Mental and physical health: reconceptualising the relationship with employment propensity


  • Gail Pacheco

    (Auckland University of Technology)

  • Dom Page

    (University of the West of England, Bristol)

  • Don Webber

    () (University of the West of England, Bristol)


While there has been significant research demonstrating the labour-market disadvantage experienced by people with mental health and physical disabilities, influential medical concepts of disability continue to shape explanations of such patterns. From this perspective, a higher rate of unemployment for people with health conditions is rational; they are impaired and are inherently less employable. The evidence from this paper challenges such conceptualisations of disability. It adopts a social model of disability and presents an empirical investigation into the impacts of mental and physical health on the propensity to be employed, yet recognises and addresses its distinct limitations in the case of mental health. Our results indicate that activity-limiting physical health and accomplishment-limiting mental health issues significantly affect the propensity to be employed. Further investigations reveal gender and ethnicity divides and that mental health is mostly exogenous to employment propensity. The empirical evidence provides quantitative and qualitative evidence that mental and physical health-related issues lead to economic exclusion.

Suggested Citation

  • Gail Pacheco & Dom Page & Don Webber, 2012. "Mental and physical health: reconceptualising the relationship with employment propensity," Working Papers 20121206, Department of Accounting, Economics and Finance, Bristol Business School, University of the West of England, Bristol.
  • Handle: RePEc:uwe:wpaper:20121206

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Cai, Lixin, 2010. "The relationship between health and labour force participation: Evidence from a panel data simultaneous equation model," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(1), pages 77-90, January.
    2. Victoria D. Ojeda & Richard G. Frank & Thomas G. McGuire & Todd P. Gilmer, 2010. "Mental illness, nativity, gender and labor supply," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(4), pages 396-421.
    3. Kidd, Michael P. & Sloane, Peter J. & Ferko, Ivan, 2000. "Disability and the labour market: an analysis of British males," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(6), pages 961-981, November.
    4. Anson, Ofra & Paran, Esther & Neumann, Lily & Chernichovsky, Dov, 1993. "Gender differences in health perceptions and their predictors," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 36(4), pages 419-427, February.
    5. Schmitz, Hendrik, 2011. "Why are the unemployed in worse health? The causal effect of unemployment on health," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 71-78, January.
    6. van Wijk, C├ęcile M. T. Gijsbers & Kolk, Annemarie M., 1997. "Sex differences in physical symptoms: The contribution of symptom perception theory," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 45(2), pages 231-246, July.
    7. Melanie K. Jones & Paul L. Latreille & Peter J. Sloane, 2006. "Disability, gender, and the British labour market," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 58(3), pages 407-449, July.
    8. Deborah Foster & Patricia Fosh, 2010. "Negotiating 'Difference': Representing Disabled Employees in the British Workplace," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 48(3), pages 560-582, September.
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    More about this item


    Mental health; Physical health; Employment status; Ethnicity; Gender;

    JEL classification:

    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health
    • J29 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Other
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination


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