Length of unemployment and health-related outcomes: a life-course analysis

Eur J Public Health. 2015 Aug;25(4):662-7. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/cku186. Epub 2014 Nov 23.


Background: Most previous studies on the effects of length of unemployment on health have focused on the duration of continuous spells of unemployment rather than on the cumulative length of intermittent spells. This study analysed the relationship between the cumulative length of intermittent spells of unemployment and different health-related outcomes using data from a longitudinal study of school leavers.

Methods: All pupils who completed compulsory schooling in 1981 in a medium-sized town in northern Sweden (N = 1083) were followed for 14 years with repeated questionnaires including questions about unemployment, health and health behaviour.

Results: Men tended to react with a steady state or a levelling off of health symptoms with increased unemployment, whereas women showed deteriorating health symptoms. For health behaviour the reverse occurred. Women's health behaviour was less connected with increased unemployment while men's health behaviour tended to deteriorate.

Conclusion: Cumulative length of unemployment is correlated with deteriorated health and health behaviour. Long-term unemployment, even as a result of cumulated shorter employment spells over a number of years should be an urgent target for policy makers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Employment / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mental Health
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sex Factors
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Sweden / epidemiology
  • Unemployment / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult