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Job Loss? Watch Your Health

Poorer Health Often Follows Job Loss, Study Shows
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

May 8, 2009 -- Health can take a turn for the worse after job loss, a new report shows.

The report comes from Kate Strully, PhD, of the sociology department at New York's University of Albany.

While doing research at the Harvard School of Public Health as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation scholar, Strully studied U.S. government health and employment data on 8,125 workers studied in 1999, 2001, and 2003.

Strully focused on people with no pre-existing health conditions, and on certain medical conditions -- such as heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis, diabetes, and emotional or psychiatric problems -- that might be sensitive to stressful events like losing a job.

Strully also considered why workers lost their jobs -- whether they were downsized, fired, quit, or were let go because their workplace closed down.

Compared to people with steady jobs, people who lost their jobs because their workplace closed were 83% more likely to report a new health condition.

By the same comparison, getting fired or downsized was linked to a 43% increase in the odds of reporting a new health condition.

The findings held regardless of age, gender, race, and education. Other factors -- like diet, exercise, and family medical history -- weren't part of the study.

Losing a job can affect health, and not just because of financial strain or losing health insurance. It can also hurt workers' social network and social status, Strully notes.

Strully's findings appear in the May 8 issue of Demography.


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