A new study has found that employees who lose their jobs because of reasons related to their poor health experience more significant depression and harmful health outcomes than people who lose their jobs due to non-health reasons.
Researchers at the University of Michigan say that their findings also indicate that people who are reemployed fast have better health outcomes than those who remain unemployed.
"We need to know more about this population for intervention and policy reasons. Re-employment appears to be key for mitigating these health effects for people who lose their jobseither for health-related reasons or other reasons, say a layoff," said Sarah Burgard, assistant professor of sociology with appointments in the Institute for Social Research and the School of Public Health.
Though existing research shows a link between involuntary job loss and health consequences, those analyses don't justify an employee's pre-existing health or other outside factors, such as socio-economic background, that may actually make the link spurious.
Burgard explained that part-time, temporary or short-term service industry jobs are replacing the standard, full-time jobs disappearing from manufacturing and other industries, and the new jobs often lack health insurance coverage or unemployment insurance eligibility.
This suggests that people working part-time or with other non-standard employment contracts will face the greatest challenges getting back into the labour force if they experience a job loss; they don't benefit from these programs, she added.
For the study, Burgard and her co-authors, James House, professor at the U-M Institute for Social Research, the Ford School of Public Policy and the sociology department, and Jennie Brand, assistant professor of sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles, improved on existing research by distinguishing between health-related job losses and other involuntary job losses, such as layoffs, to reassess the effect of involuntary job loss on health.
The team wanted to know if involuntary job loss caused the health decline, or if pre-existing poor health or an acute negative health shock caused the job loss, which then precipitated an even greater health decline.
Researchers say that the findings underline the social and economic significance of structuring health insurance, unemployment benefits, and re-employment programs to meet the needs of an evolving workforce, as non-standard employment contracts become more common.
The paper, "Toward a Better Estimation of the Effect of Job Loss on Health," is published in the December edition of the Journal of Health and Social Behaviour.