NEW YORK (MainStreet) – As if losing a job wasn’t bad enough, a new study finds that job loss can lead to premature death, particularly in men.
Researchers at McGill University in Canada surveyed existing data that covered 20 million people in 15 countries from the past 40 years. They concluded that unemployment increases men's mortality risk by 78% and women’s by 37%.
McGill sociology professor Eran Shor, a lead author of the study, attributed the demographic differences to men’s tendency to take on the burden of being the family bread winner.
"We suspect that even today, not having a job is more stressful for men than for women," Shor said in a press release. "When a man loses his job, it still often means that the family will become poorer and suffer in various ways, which in turn can have a huge impact on a man's health by leading to both increased smoking, drinking or eating, and by reducing the availability of healthy nutrition and health care services."
Generally speaking, unemployment increases the risk of premature mortality by 63%. Interestingly, researchers said the risk of death increased when an unemployed individual was under 50.
The correlation between unemployment and a higher risk of death was the same in all the countries covered by the study, despite variations in health care systems from country to country.
Researchers also found evidence that health conditions that lead to premature death developed after the job loss occurred, debunking the idea that pre-existing health conditions, such as diabetes or heart problems, or behaviors such as smoking, drinking or drug use, lead to unemployment and a greater risk of death.
“What's interesting about our work is that we found that preexisting health conditions had no effect, suggesting that the unemployment-mortality relationship is quite likely a causal one,” Shor explained. “This probably has to do with unemployment causing stress and negatively affecting one's socio-economic status, which in turn leads to poorer health and higher mortality rates."
The researcher suggest that public-health initiatives target unemployed people for more aggressive cardiovascular screening and interventions to reduce risk-taking behaviors.