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Not Being Tenured is Bad For You, Says Science

Non-tenure track professors at universities probably don’t need science to tell them that their lack of stable employment is slowly killing them.

But just in case anybody has any doubts: A recent psychology study done by Gretchen Reevy and Grace Deason investigated the link between non-tenured teaching positions and anxiety, stress and depression.

The result? Being stressed out about their  precarious job and low pay is correlated with higher depression, anxiety and stress.


Results indicate that NTT faculty perceive unique stressors at work that are related to their contingent positions. Specific demographic characteristics and coping strategies, inability to find a permanent faculty position, and commitment to one’s organization predispose NTT faculty to perceive greater harm and more sources of stress in their workplaces. Demographic characteristics, lower income, inability to find a permanent faculty position, disengagement coping mechanisms (e.g., giving up, denial), and organizational commitment were associated with the potential for negative outcomes, particularly depression, anxiety, and stress.

Of course, we already know that being poor is bad for your health. Depression, too, is associated with health problems such as heart disease and disproportionately affects the poor.

In other words, your job is probably killing you. Or more specifically, the university that refuses to hire you is.

Hiring non-tenured, temporary positions is a tactic commonly employed by universities to save on labor costs. Most non-tenured positions do not have the additional cost of medical or retirement benefits reserved for tenured professors. The researchers note that “70% of faculty members in higher education are employed off the tenure-track.”

That divide is heavily racialized and gendered, the researchers note. Non-tenured teachers are disproportionately female and are more likely to be Black, Latino or Native American than White or Asian.

The researchers note that their “findings suggest possibilities for institutional intervention.” But I’m sure rather than paying people, they’ll probably just send them off to some team-building camp that teaches them to feel good about their terrible job.

To be fair, tenure-track professors are also pretty miserable.