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Unemployment and health

If employment is beneficial to health, then it follows that unemployment can negatively impact health. Unemployment has been consistently linked to poor health,[4] and has been associated with higher mortality rates, especially from heart disease and suicide.[2] Women who are unemployed have higher rates of anxiety and depression and lower self rated health status.[2] A French study showed that unemployed men had higher rates of smoking, alcohol consumption, psychoactive drug use and depression than their employed counterparts.[5]


How do you account for the differences ?

The relationship between unemployment and health is not simple. You may be wondering whether this relationship can be explained by considering that individuals with poorer health are less able to work. While this is certainly the case, there is sufficient evidence to suggest that employment is beneficial to health, and that this benefit is lost without paid work.[4]

The potential negative impact of unemployment on health is illustrated by examining the experience of job loss. Consider the following case.


2. Canadian Public Health Association. Board of Directors Discussion Paper. Health impacts of social and economic conditions: Implications for public policy. 2001. Ottawa, Canadian Public Health Association

4. Beland, F, Birch, S, Stoddart, G. Unemployment and health: contextual level influences on the production of health in populations. Social Science and Medicine 2002;2033-52.

5. Khlat, M, Sermet, C, Le Pape, A. Increased prevalence of depression, smoking, heavy drinking and use of psycho-active drugs among unemployed men in France. European Journal of Epidemiology 2004;19:445-451

All references for this section