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Heart Disease Health Center

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Heart Risk Tied to Late Life Layoffs

People Over 50 Risk Heart Attack, Stroke After Job Loss
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

June 21, 2006 -- Losing your job at any age can be stressful but being laid off late in life might come with double the stroke and heart attack risk.

A study of more than 4,000 people over 10 years shows those who lost their jobs after age 50 were twice as likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke as their peers who weren't let go.

William T. Gallo, PhD, and his fellow researchers at Yale University say this stroke and heart attack risk is about the same even when other stroke and heart risk factors including obesity, smoking, high blood pressure, and diabetes are accounted for.

Twofold Stroke, Heart Attack Risk

To reach their conclusion, they looked at data from the first 10 years of the National Institute on Aging's Health and Retirement Survey, studying 4,301 people who were 51-61 years old when the survey began in 1992.

By 2002, the survey showed:

  • 582 people had lost their jobs.
  • 202 people had suffered heart attacks; 33 of those had been laid off.
  • 140 people had had strokes; 13 of those had been laid off.

After analyzing the data, the Yale team determined those folks who were let go after age 50 were twice as likely to suffer a stroke or heart attack as those still on the job.

The researchers say these results confirm and extend an earlier study they did that showed a higher stroke risk but not a higher heart attack risk after a layoff. That study followed people for only six years -- not long enough, they say, to get a clear picture of the link between layoffs and heart risks.

Their report urges doctors to consider job loss as a heart risk when they treat patients. And it says policy makers also should take this risk into account when planning programs to ease the burden of layoffs.

The study is to be published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine but was posted online today.

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