The rise of automation in many sectors of the U.S. economy is causing some workers to suffer from declining physical and mental health triggered by the fear they may lose their jobs, a study finds.
Increased automation in the workplace may create perceptions of poorer job security, and be associated with poor health outcomes, according to the study, "County-level job automation risk and health: Evidence from the United States," published in the journal Social Science and Medicine.
Researchers from Ball State University and Villanova University found that a 10-percent increase in "automation risk" at the county level worsens laborers' general, physical, and mental health by 2.38 percent, 0.8 percent, and 0.6 percent, respectively.
The study covered "employees in occupational classes at higher risk of automation," including manufacturing sectors, but did not specify whether warehouse and transportation jobs were included in that group. Ball State University did not reply to a request for comment.
The workforce in southern U.S. states had the highest percentage of people with worse health from exposure to automation risk, according to the study. The Rocky Mountain and Southwest regions showed a wide variation in statistics, and the Plains, Midwest, and New England regions had the best health outcomes, the study found.
The study called for additional research on identifying ways to mitigate the negative effects of automation risk on workers' health.
"The actual and felt threats from automation may not immediately manifest into morbidities, but the increasing prevalence of poorer self-reported health and feelings of deteriorating physical and mental health can have a direct and lasting impact on individuals, families, and communities," study co-author Michael Hicks, the director of Ball State's Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER), said in a statement./p>