Robots may not have taken all our jobs yet, but they are getting in our heads.

U.S. employees working in fields with "higher risk of automation" reported greater job insecurity--which was associated with poorer mental and physical health, a new study finds. The research, slated to be published in April 2018 in the journal Social Science and Medicine, found that even geographical exposure to "automation risk" may be negatively associated with health outcomes. 

"People who live and work in areas where automation is taking place are sickened by the thought of losing their jobs and having no way of providing for themselves or their families," Michael Hicks, the director of Ball State University's Center for Business and Economic Research, said in a news release.

Hicks conducted the study with fellow Ball State researchers Srikant Devaraj and Emily Wornell, as well as Villanova University's Pankaj Patel. The researchers used county-level data, individual data from the General Social Survey, and two other surveys. 

The study found that with every 10 percentage-point increase in automation risk, employees' general health was 2.38 percent worse--and their mental health 0.6 percent worse.  

In previous research, Hicks had found in 2015 that job losses in the nation's manufacturing sectors due to automation were as high as 88 percent in recent years. So the fear among the study's participants might not be unfounded.

The Pew Research Center has found that two-thirds of Americans expect that computers or robots will in 50 years do much of the work performed by humans. On the other hand, most of us--80 percent--are hopeful our own jobs will still be around at that time. At least we still have optimism bias.

Published on: Mar 20, 2018