A paper in Frontiers in Psychology says that 70 percent of faculty are non-tenure-track academics and they experience stress, anxiety, and depression due to their insecure job situation - in other words, they are stressed out about the exact same job situation everyone without a job for life that everyone in the world faces.
Adjunct titles, lecturers and instructors work under short-term contracts and have limited or no health and retirement benefits. Sometimes they are part-time and at different institutes simultaneously.
So what? There are 93,000,000 unemployed people in the US alone, someone who wants to remain in academia and chooses to pay their dues as an adjunct professor knows what it means or doesn't mean, universities are quite clear about that.
Two psychologists have written a paper claiming that this stress is somehow greater than other at-will employees in America face but it falls victim to a plight of the social sciences - attributing significance to <200 self-reported questionnaires. Questions focused on work-related sources of stress, mental wellbeing, and coping mechanisms, as well as about their background, family situation, and income.
Almost one-third of the participants (31%) replied that the lack of job security was among the most stressful aspects of their work. Other frequently named sources of stress were a high workload; lack of support and recognition; low and unequal pay; and feeling excluded from the infrastructure and governance at their institute . Yet they don't leave and go get another job.
Non-tenure track faculty who wished for a permanent position, or whose family income was low, were more prone to depression, anxiety, and stress. They were also more likely to suffer from these if they felt personally committed to the institution where they worked. On average, women reported encountering more sources of stress at work than men.
The authors call on universities to attend more to the specific needs of their non-tenure-track faculty to avoid negative outcomes for institutions, students, and faculty. Their suggestions include alleviating the sources of stress listed above and increasing the rate of hiring into more secure, tenure-track positions.
Students are already saddled with mountains of debt due to runaway expansion in universities brought about by unlimited student loans. Recommending that schools now provide counselling or tenure-track jobs for everyone who applies seems like the recommendation of people who don't understand economics.
Citation: Reevy GM and Deason G (2014) Predictors of depression, stress, and anxiety among non-tenure track faculty. Front. Psychol. 5:701. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00701