The robots are driving American colleagues to substance abuse, mental health problems, according to a study

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Automation improves the industry, but is detrimental to the mental health of its human counterparts.

A University of Pittsburgh study suggests that while American workers who work with industrial robots are less likely to suffer physical injuries, they are more likely to suffer from adverse mental health effects – and even more likely to abuse with drugs or alcohol.

These findings come from a study published last week in Labor economics by Pitt economist Osea Giuntella, along with a team that includes Pitt colleague Rania Gihleb, an assistant professor in economics, and Tianyi Wang, who is in a postdoctoral program after receiving her doctorate. at Pete.

“There is widespread interest in understanding the effects of robots on the labor market. And evidence of how robots affect workers’ employment and wages, especially in the manufacturing sector, “said Kentella, an expert in labor economics and economic demography and an assistant professor in economics at the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences.

“However, we still know very little about the effects on physical and mental health. On the one hand, robots could take on some of the most strenuous, physically intense and risky tasks, reducing the risk to workers. On the other hand, competition with robots can increase the pressure on workers, who may lose their jobs or be forced to retrain. Of course, labor market institutions can play an important role, especially in the transition phase. “

The study uses data from workplaces and workplace injury organizations in the United States to find that an increase in a standard deviation of robot exposure in a given regional labor market leads to a reduction in annual work-related injuries. In total, injuries were reduced by 1.2 cases per 100 workers. Meanwhile, areas of the United States with more people working with robots have a significant increase of 37.8 cases per 100,000 deaths from drug or alcohol-related deaths. In addition, communities working with robots have seen a slight increase in suicides and mental health problems.

In addition to American business, researchers are also studying the effects of robotics on workers in Germany. Employees in both countries had a reduction in the risk of physical injury with greater exposure to robotics in the workplace, with Germany recording a 5% reduction in injuries. Interestingly, the team found different results in terms of mental health.

While the increase in robot exposure in the United States has had more adverse effects on mental health, German workers have not noticed a significant change in mental health when exposed to robotics. These findings then raise the question: Why does American work automation seem to lead to much more negative results than in Germany?

“The exposure to robots has not caused devastating job losses in Germany; “Germany has much higher employment protection legislation,” Juntella said. “Our evidence shows that in both contexts, robots have a positive impact on workers’ physical health by reducing injuries and work-related injuries. However, our findings show that in contexts where workers have been less protected, competition with robots has been linked to an increase in mental health problems. “

Giuntella has studied the effects of robotics on the workforce before, with a 2021 study published in Human Resources Magazine. This previous study focused on the effects of robotics on men’s economic growth, marital status and marital fertility.

“There has been intense debate about the effects of robotics and automation on labor market outcomes, but we still know little about how these structural economic changes are changing key lifecycle choices,” Juntella said after the 2021 publication.

With the findings of this 2022 study, it can be seen that the development of robotics can lead to even more destructive results in the lives of workers than physical injuries. These findings show that labor market institutions are an important mediator of the negative effects of robots on mental health.


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More info:
Rania Gihleb et al, Industrial robots, worker safety and health, Labor economics (2022). DOI: 10.1016 / j.labeco.2022.102205

Provided by the University of Pittsburgh

Quote: Robots drive colleagues in the United States to substance abuse, mental health problems, finds a study (2022, June 29), extracted on June 29, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-06-robots-co -workers-substance -abuse-mental.html

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