The contribution of unemployment to socioeconomic health differences

Int J Epidemiol. 1992 Apr;21(2):329-37. doi: 10.1093/ije/21.2.329.


Unemployment and socioeconomic status (SES) are both related to mortality and health inequality or differences. The main purpose of this study is to assess the contribution of these factors to health status. Data have been analysed from over 500 employed and 500 unemployed men, 30-50 years old, in two highly industrialized areas of the Netherlands. Three scales of self-reported health were used: somatic complaints, depressive complaints and chronic diseases. Experimentally, four SES measures were tested separately: education, occupation and household income as single measures, and a composite score constructed from the weighted sum of these measures. Results show a clear independent influence of SES as well as unemployment on health differences, when indicated by occupation or education. Household income appears to influence the results, the implications of which are discussed. Including the longitudinal follow-up there are three measurements over time. These data were used to test a homogenizing hypothesis, questioning processes that might indicate the existence of one unemployed (under) class. This hypothesis was rejected. Finally the data indicated a small contribution of health selection processes on the labour market.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Chronic Disease / epidemiology
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Morbidity
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Unemployment / statistics & numerical data*