“Is work good for you?” Does paid employment produce positive social capital returns for people with severe and enduring mental health conditions?

<i>Purpose</i> – This paper seeks to examine whether paid employment produces positive social capital returns for people with severe and enduring mental health needs. <i>Design/methodology/approach</i> – A sample of 96 users of mental health services in Sussex, who had been supported to return to work, completed a questionnaire rating their level of agreement with statements about their quality of life both before and after they started working. In addition, three supplementary individual case studies were made. <i>Findings</i> – Analysis showed significant increases in reported quality of life following employment. The post-employment positivity of responses was found across most areas of well-being. Significant but varying gains were found in the majority of individuals who reported improvement in the following areas; social life; independence; resilience; confidence and self-esteem; optimism; satisfaction; general happiness and ability to manage mental health. A third of individuals reported improvements in personal relationships and physical health. Qualitative data indicated that increased confidence was perceived by participants as the most important factor. Increased benefits were also found to be associated with individuals who had worked for a longer period, worked longer hours and were supported on a contract with high fidelity to the IPS model. <i>Research limitations/implications</i> – The paper relies on a self-report method requiring respondents to reflect on how they felt pre and post gaining employment. This follows a rather subjective methodology. There were a number of individuals who had only worked for one month or less in the past year. These are unlikely to have experienced social capital returns or in fact any real impact at all as a result of working and likely distorted the results to some extent. <i>Originality/value</i> – There have been limited research studies that have examined the additional social capital returns for people with enduring mental ill health who return to work.

Publication Date: 
14 - 25
Journal Name: 
Mental Health and Social Inclusion