Professor of Economics
Mental health; Self-employment; Temporary jobs; Understanding Society
The authors study the effect of both self and temporary employment on mental health in the UK. They match individual-level information on health and sociodemographic characteristics from the UK Household Longitudinal Study (Understanding Society) between 2009 and 2016 with Google Trends data on the amount of search activity related to the gig economy.The authors use Google Trends data on Uber, Deliveroo, and Airbnb by commuting zone to instrument for the probability that an individual will be employed in a gig-type job. The Google Trends data are strong predictors of both self and temporary employment. These findings suggest that self and temporary employment, as identified through gig-economy activity, have large positive effects on mental health. These effects exist for both men and women but are stronger for women and for older workers (ages 40-64). This evidence points to issues of control in the job as potential drivers of the improvements in mental health.