Unemployment and Health
UNEMPLOYMENT AND HEALTH
The "healthy worker effect" is frequently observed in epidemiological studies in which health characteristics in a working population are compared with those in the general population. The often dramatically lower incidence of morbidity and mortality among workers is due to a number of factors, among which is the higher socioeconomic status of those with jobs as compared to the unemployed, the availability of health insurance and other forms of health coverage, and the fact that individuals who develop chronic diseases before adulthood often do not enter the workforce.
There is evidence that the loss of a job is a significant life event that can lead to unhealthy behaviors, including alcoholism. Unemployment is often a cause of stress and psychological depression, and it can lead to a disintegration of the family. Job loss can also be an indicator of physical, psychological, or behavioral problems in an individual.
Response to job loss can be seen as a public health issue requiring surveillance and intervention, particularly in situations where a downturn in the economy makes reemployment problematic. Risk analyses of regulatory activities should consider the impact of unemployment on public health.
BERNARD D. GOLDSTEIN
Gordon, D.; Shaw, M.; Dorling, D.; and Davey Smith, G. (1999). Inequalities in Health: The Evidence Presented to the Independent Inquiry into Inequalities in Health. Bristol, UK: The Policy Press.
Smith, R. (1985). "Please Never Let It Happen Again: Lessons on Unemployment from the 1930s." British Medical Journal 291:1191–1412.