Background: Unemployment is relatively common today, but the importance of work characteristics in relation to future unemployment has seldom been studied.
Methods: The relation between occupational and non-occupational factors, as well as ill health, in 1993 and unemployment in 1997 has been examined using an exploratory approach. Both analyses of associations and cluster analysis have been performed.
Results: Reduced psychological well-being and some occupational factors mainly related to job insecurity and, among women, also few opportunities for development at work--were found to be risk indicators for unemployment later on. To some extent, also earlier unemployment periods predicted unemployment in 1997. The influence of reduced psychological well-being and earlier unemployment periods on the associations between occupational factors in 1993 and 1997 consisted mainly of a decrease of the influence of job insecurity. Seven clusters were identified. One of them was male dominated, where the level of unemployment was very high and the individuals had reduced psychological well-being, insecure working conditions and demanding living conditions. The female equivalent was characterised by a high level of unemployment, multi-demands at work and poor musculoskeletal health.
Conclusions: Reduced psychological well-being and job insecurity were risk indicators for later unemployment among both genders, as were also few opportunities for development at work among women. These factors predicted unemployment, also when age and other non-occupational factors were taken into consideration. The cluster analysis identified groups of individuals with highly demanding occupational and non-occupational conditions in 1993 and a high level of unemployment in 1997.