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I just read a study that confirms what I’ve long suspected: Having a really, really bad job is often worse than having no job at all.

The study shows that people who went from being unemployed to having a “poor quality” job (one that’s overly demanding with a lack of job security) suffered from even worse mental health consequences than those who remained out of work, WebMD reports.

In the last few years, I have witnessed this to be true not only in my own life, but in the lives of my friends and colleagues.

Two jobs ago, I had a great job at a great company where me and most of my colleagues were very happy for many years. Then a new boss came in with some sort of mood swing disorder: He would cycle from liking you to ignoring you to hating you in a matter of weeks, then start the cycle all over again. We decided to treat this boss as if he were our “alcoholic uncle.”

During this time, I realized I was actually muttering curse words to myself — OUT LOUD — on my lunch break, and it wasn’t unusual for women to gather in the bathroom for a good cry (sounds pathetic, I know).

Needless to say, most (if not all) of the original team eventually quit, but the “alcoholic uncle” is still there torturing people.

But I soon realized that the alcoholic uncle wasn’t nearly as bad as the downright abusive uncle at my next job. I often had the song “Welcome to the Jungle” running through my head at this subsequent job, as paranoia was rampant and a “kill or be killed” culture was encouraged. I was alarmed but not altogether shocked to learn that a seemingly normal colleague was popping downers in the bathroom just to get through the day. This was a very bad sign.

I do think the recession caused a rise in these types of situations, as people felt obligated to hang onto jobs that they otherwise would have ditched in a heartbeat. But now that the economy is better and I am once again happily employed, I did come away from these experiences with a couple of life lessons:

No 1. Life is too short to let someone treat you badly, for any amount of time.

No 2. Life isn’t free, which is why you should always have a few months’ worth of living expenses in the bank to escape in the event of No. 1.

The study appears online in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

More information

Mental Health America offers tips for healthy living.

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