Although signs of economic recovery are generally good for the jobless, there are some recent finding that might shed a different light on the matter.
Researchers from Drexel University from Pennsylvania found that unemployment raises mortality risks. The results were published in July 2014 in American Journal of Epidemiology, under the title “Individual Joblessness, Contextual Unemployment, and Mortality Risk”. Data for this study was based on secondary analysis of Panel Study of Income Dynamics, from 1979 until 1997, available from US Department of Labor. The statistical model for their analysis included the influences of individual employment status, as well as the employment rate of each analyzed state. Besides those factors, health history, age, gender, income and marital status are relevant when assessing death risk.
Unemployment raises mortality risks, but periods of economic recession decrease it
As Medical News Today quotes, unemployment raises mortality risk by 73%, which could be translated in adding up to ten years to someone’s age. One provided explanation is that stress related to needing a job might induce deviant behaviors, like drug use.
According to the leading authors, these effects are only visible for unemployed groups and there are reduced during economic recession, which means that when the economy is bad, there are less unemployed people at risk of death.
There are several explanations considered when analyzing these opposite effects. First, the air pollution during booming economies is higher, which is directly related to health status. When an economy is in recession, pollution is reduced because of lack of industrial activity.
Ultimately, when economies are on the rise, people do more work, they sleep less and have more sleeping disorders, commute more and so they risk more to have accidents. Therefore mortality risk increases. All this are less done in recession, consequently mortality risk decreases.
Second, the stress associated with the pressure to have a job is higher when economies are good, the result being that more and more people from the unemployed groups are being affected by depression. On the other hand, when recession strikes, there is a sense of normalcy in budget reduction, cuts in employment and a general increase of number of unemployed persons. Therefore, in a time of recession, not having a job might not be such an anomaly after all. Consequently, unemployment raises mortality risks, but during recession there are fewer feelings associated with depression or pressure to obtain a job, since the general tendency is that you don’t have one. Also, the mild improvement of mortality rate during economic recessions is, as the authors noted, although significant, moderate in effect at the same time, so the opposite phenomena don’t have the same intensity.