In a recent study, researchers from Oregon Health & Science University find that service workers who rely on tips are at greater risk for depression, sleep problems and stress compared with people who work in non-tipped positions.
Currently, about 102 million Americans work in the service industry, according to the Pew Research Center.
These people fill critical positions in restaurants, salons, and transportation.
In many cases, the jobs offer base pay at rates up to 71% lower than the federal minimum wage, with the expectation that tips, which are highly unpredictable, will make up the difference.
Service jobs in which workers receive tips are potentially more risky due to unstable schedule and income, and lack of benefits.
In the current study, the researchers tested hypotheses that people working in tipped service occupations have higher risk of experiencing poor mental health compared with people in untipped service and nonservice jobs.
The poor mental health problems include depression, sleep problems and stress.
The team used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health data set (2007–2008; age range, 24–33 years).
A total of 2,815 women and 2,586 men were included in the analysis.
The researchers found that women in tipped service had a higher chance of depression diagnosis or symptoms compared with women in nonservice work.
Sleep problems and perceived stress were also observed among women service workers.
No such results were found in men working in service industry.
The team suggests that while the idea that ‘the customer is always right’ may be a valid business plan, that mentality may negatively impact employee health, especially in women.
Additional research is needed to better understand the factors that contributed to differences in mental health impact amongst this segment of workers.
The lead author Sarah Andrea, M.P.H. is a Ph.D. candidate in epidemiology at the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health.
The study co-author Janne Boone-Heinonen, Ph.D., M.P.H. is an associate professor of epidemiology in the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health.
The study is published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
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