Experiences of involuntary job loss and health during the economic crisis in Portugal

Porto Biomed J. 2021 Feb 11;6(1):e121. doi: 10.1097/j.pbj.0000000000000121. eCollection Jan-Feb 2021.


Background: The economic recession that started in 2008 left many unemployed across several European countries. Many studies have analyzed the relationship between job loss, health, and well-being in other contexts. This study aimed to explore experiences of involuntary unemployment during the economic recession and their relationship with health, conceptualized as a state of physical, mental, and social well-being among unemployed individuals.

Methods: Semistructured qualitative interviews were carried out among a convenience sample of participants who became unemployed during the economic recession. The analysis was conducted to identify patterns and themes.

Results: Participants (n = 22; 8 men and 14 women; 23-51 years) experienced feelings of loss of identity, stress, and a sense of powerlessness due to unemployment, as well as a lack of purpose and structure in their daily lives. Six themes were identified: work as the basis for life structure and personal fulfillment; response to unemployment and the importance of its duration; unemployment leading to isolation and loss of a role in society; impact of a change in financial situation on social life and consumption patterns; the physical and psychological health consequences of unemployment; and searching for ways to cope with unemployment and to feel well.

Conclusions: Losing a job is an adverse experience that impairs an individual's perception of overall health and well-being. From a public health perspective, the results of this study highlight the need for policymakers' awareness to help mitigate the potential consequences of involuntary job loss in the short- and long-term.

Keywords: Porto; Portugal; economic recession; health; unemployment; well-being.