Working with robots has been revealed as a main cause of depression and substance abuse among US workers, in a new study out of the University of Pittsburgh .
While really common to hear experts and ordinary people talk up the hazards of robots taking individuals jobs in the near future, what we don’t have heard about until now is the effects of working alongside robots.
Despite the fact that workers that work with robots are more unlikely to suffer injuries on the job, this new study suggests that sharing the workplace with robots may have other, similarly unpleasant effects.
Robots in the workplace: melancholy and substance abuse
“ There is a wide interest in knowing labor market effects of robots. And evidence of how programs affected employment and wages of workers, particularly in the manufacturing sector, ” says Pitt economist Osea Giuntella, an assistant professor in the Department of Economics, within a media launch .
“ However , we still understand very little about the effects upon physical and mental health. On one hand, robots could get some of the most strenuous, physically intense, and risky tasks decreasing workers’ risk. On the other hand, the competition with robots may raise the pressure on workers who may lose their own jobs or forced to retrain. Of course , work market institutions may perform an important role, particularly within a transition phase. ”
The researchers got data on workplace injuries throughout the U. S. included in the study. On the positive aspect, they discovered that for every embrace robot exposure in the work market, the number of work-related injuries decreased each year. For every standard deviation increase of robot exposure, injuries fell by 1 . 2 instances for every 100 workers.
However , there was a darker side to their findings. The researchers also found that the more people work alongside robots, the number of drug or even alcohol-related deaths increased simply by 37. 8 cases for each 100, 000 people. In addition, communities working next to robots also saw a small increase in the local suicide rate and the number of mental health problems people reported.
The researchers then checked out these effects in the global labor market, through a evaluation with Germany. Although both countries saw a reduction in the number of physical injuries happening on the job, Germany did not feel the same problems regarding psychological health.
This, of course , begs the question: exactly why would Americans suffer especially from sharing their workspaces with robots?
“ Robot exposure did not cause disruptive job deficits in Germany; Germany has a much higher employment protection laws, ” Giuntella says.
“ Our proof finds that, in both contexts, robots have a positive impact on the physical health associated with workers by reducing accidents and work- related afflictions. However , our findings shows that, in contexts where workers were less protected, competition with robots was associated with a rise in mental health problems. ”
“ There has been an intense debate on the effects of robotics and automation upon labor market outcomes, but we still know small about how these structural economic changes are reshaping crucial life-course choices, ” Giuntella adds.
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