Objectives: The study investigated whether indicators of health, work conditions, or life-style predict subsequent unemployment and also the unemployment consequences related to health or life-style.
Methods: A questionnaire was administered to 781 male construction and 877 male forest workers (aged 20-49 years and working at the beginning of the study) in 1989 and 1994. Employment status during follow-up was ranked into the following 4 categories according to the employment status and unemployment time: continuously employed, re-employed, short-term (< or = 24 months) unemployed and long-term (> or =24 months) unemployed.
Results: The following base-line factors were associated with long-term unemployment during follow-up among the construction workers: age >40 years, poor subjective health, smoking, frequent heavy use of alcohol, low job satisfaction, marital status (single), and unemployment during the year preceding the initial survey. Among the forest workers, age >40 years, frequent stress symptoms, and preceding unemployment entered the model. In addition smoking predicted unemployment among the forest workers with no preceding unemployment. The proportion of regular smokers decreased among the long-term unemployed. Physical exercise was more frequent at the time of follow-up than it was initially, particularly among the unemployed. Stress symptoms increased among the construction workers, but musculoskeletal symptoms decreased significantly among the long-term unemployed. Among the forest workers stress symptoms decreased among the continuously employed and re-employed persons, but musculoskeletal symptoms decreased significantly for them all.
Conclusions: Unemployment among construction workers is to some extent dependent on life-style, health, and job satisfaction in addition to age, marital status, and unemployment history. For forest workers, unemployment is less determined by individual factors. Changes in distress and musculoskeletal symptoms are dependent on employment, particularly among construction workers.