Health and unemployment: 14 years of follow-up on job loss in the Norwegian HUNT Study

Eur J Public Health. 2016 Apr;26(2):312-7. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/ckv224. Epub 2015 Dec 29.


Background: Many studies have investigated how unemployment influences health, less attention has been paid to the reverse causal direction; how health may influence the risk of becoming unemployed. We prospectively investigated a wide range of health measures and subsequent risk of unemployment during 14 years of follow-up.

Methods: Self-reported health data from 36 249 participants in the Norwegian HUNT2 Study (1995-1997) was linked by a personal identification number to the National Insurance Database (1992-2008). Exact dates of unemployment were available. Cox's proportional hazard models were used to estimate hazard ratios (HR) for the association of unemployment with several health measures. Adjustment variables were age, gender, education, marital status, occupation, lifestyle and previous unemployment.

Results: Compared to reporting no conditions/symptoms, having ≥3 chronic somatic conditions (HR 1.78, 95% CI 1.46-2.17) or high symptom levels of anxiety and depression (HR 1.57, 95% CI 1.35-1.83) increased the risk of subsequent unemployment substantially. Poor self-rated health (HR 1.36, 95% CI 1.24-1.51), insomnia (HR 1.19, 95% CI 1.09-1.32), gastrointestinal symptoms (HR 1.17, 95% CI 1.08-1.26), high alcohol consumption (HR 1.17, 95% CI 0.95-1.44) and problematic use of alcohol measured by the CAGE questionnaire (HR 1.32, 95% CI 1.17-1.48) were also associated with increased risk of unemployment.

Conclusion: People with poor mental and physical health are at increased risk of job loss. This contributes to poor health amongst the unemployed and highlights the need for policy focus on the health and welfare of out of work individuals, including support preparing them for re-employment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Employment / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / epidemiology
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Norway
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / epidemiology
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Unemployment / statistics & numerical data*