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(Boston, Mass.) — Researchers at Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) have recently finished the largest study of its kind on the health and organizational effects of workplace restructuring and downsizing. The results show that employees experiencing downsizing in their workplace are more likely to suffer from medical symptoms, overall mental health issues and a decreased sense of job security.
Conducted from 1991 through 1998, the BUSPH study, with funding from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, surveyed more than 10,000 Department of Energy (DOE) employees at the following sites: Los Alamos National Laboratory, Nevada Test Site, Oak Ridge Y-12 Facility, Idaho National Environment and Energy Laboratory, and the Pantex Plant.
“We found that employees who are well-informed about downsizing and reorganization experience fewer negative health effects than those who are not informed,” says Lewis Pepper, MD, MPH, principal investigator and associate professor of health, Boston University School of Public Health. “Additionally, union members reported fewer medical problems and lower perceived stress than non-bargain unit employees,” adds Pepper. Those who perceived a fair process of downsizing reported fewer medical symptoms and conditions, lower occurrence of survivor syndrome symptoms, and greater job security and higher employee morale. Employees with negative experiences reported more medical problems, poor health, compromised mental health, more stress, job insecurity, and poor work performance.
The study began after the U.S. Congress passed Section 3161 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1993 outlining an approach to workforce reductions in the nuclear weapons industry. As a result, the DOE, with funding from the, was selected to study and recommend ways to lessen the impacts of workforce reductions on individual and organization health.
Since 1993, there have been 46,000 layoffs of prime contractor employees at DOE sites. More than 14,000 DOE employees at the five DOE sites were downsized during the study period through voluntary and involuntary layoffs.
Established in 1976, Boston University School of Public Health is a leading academic and public health research institution, with an enrollment of more than 600 students and nearly 350 full and part-time faculty. It is known for its programs in environmental health, epidemiology and biostatistics, health law, international health, maternal and child health, among others.