Unemployment and ill health: a connection through inflammation?

BMC Public Health. 2009 Nov 12:9:410. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-9-410.


Background: Unemployment is a source of acute and long-term psychosocial stress. Acute and chronic psychosocial stress can induce pronounced changes in human immune responses. In this study we tested our hypothesis that stress-induced low-grade tissue inflammation is more prevalent among the unemployed.

Methods: We determined the inflammatory status of 225 general population subjects below the general retirement age (65 years in Finland). Those who had levels of both interleukin-6 (>or= 0.97 pg/mL) and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (>or= 1.49 mg/L) above the median were assessed to have an elevated inflammatory status (n = 72).

Results: An elevated inflammatory status was more common among the unemployed than among other study participants (59% versus 30%, p = 0.011). In the final multivariate model, those who were unemployed had over five-fold greater odds for having an elevated inflammatory status (OR 5.20, 95% CI 1.55-17.43, p = 0.008).

Conclusion: This preliminary finding suggests that stress-induced low-grade inflammation might be a link between unemployment and ill health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • C-Reactive Protein / analysis
  • Economic Recession
  • Female
  • Finland
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / etiology*
  • Interleukin-6 / blood
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*
  • Unemployment / psychology*


  • Interleukin-6
  • C-Reactive Protein