Unemployment Could Increase Risk of Early Death

A collaborative cohort study conducted by researchers from Wuhan, Norway and London has established an association between employment status and the risk of all-cause and cause-specific mortality. Results have revealed that both, provisional and long-standing unemployment increases the risk of death, particularly from health complications, and has an adverse effect on longevity.

The study was published in the BMJ Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Unemployment: How it Influences an Individual’s Well-being

Being employed and holding a steady job means identity, income and social interaction for an individual. Unemployment is generally defined as not having a paid job but striving to have one. The most commonly used definition is the one by the International Labour Organization (ILO) which describes an unemployed individual as someone who does not currently have a job but has been actively looking for work for the past four weeks.

Being unemployed deprives an individual of the basic requirements he or she needs in order to sustain a reasonable living. For that matter, unemployment is generally deemed as a significant detriment to health, since it strongly influences the social and economic conditions that determine an individual’s health as well as the risk factors for developing complications. A lack of economic resources will result in poor nutrition due to constraints in affordability, poor living conditions and selective health care seeking. Moreover, unemployment may also negatively impact an individual’s growth, educational development and social skills. Taking into account the psychological and psychosocial stress of being unemployed, joblessness is most likely to influence a person’s behavioural choices via negative-coping mechanisms, such as taking up drinking or smoking and adopting hazardous behaviours.

Most studies previously conducted have focused on how temporary unemployment effects mortality. However, they have been unable to establish whether a similar trend exists among individuals who were never employed or are retired. The researchers involved in this study evaluated the association between temporary unemployment, permanent unemployment (never employed) and retirement with all-cause mortality (deaths due to a disease/harmful exposure) and cause-specific mortality (deaths in reference to a specified cause) in US adults.

The Findings and Conclusion

Data was obtained from the National Health Interview Survey (2001-2013) Linked Mortality Files through 31 December, 2015. The participants, 282,364 in total and between the ages of 18 and 65, were grouped into four categories: employed, temporary unemployed, never employed and retired. Through the duration of the mean follow-up time of 8.2 years, 12,645 subjects died from various causes.

As compared to the employed group, subjects in the temporary unemployed, never employed or retired groups were found to be at a higher risk for all-cause mortality. Further analysis showed that as compared to the employed subjects, the temporary and never employed participants had a significantly higher risk of dying from diseases such as cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease and diabetes.

The study suggests that temporary and long-term unemployment significantly increase the risk of mortality and potentially increase an individual’s chances of developing adverse health complications. This enhanced risk of dying from external causes implies a considerable need for developing support and coping mechanisms for those experiencing unemployment, focusing particularly on those individuals who are already physiologically or psychologically vulnerable.

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