From a health perspective, going to college is the best
option for young people during times of mass unemployment, says a senior
researcher in an editorial published on bmj.com today.
Unemployment is bad for health, writes Danny Dorling,
Professor of Human Geography at the University of Sheffield.
In the UK, we know much about the detrimental health effects
of unemployment. For example, studies show that deaths doubled among men aged
40-59 in the five years after redundancy in 1980, while research during the
early 1990s found that unemployment increased rates of depression, particularly
in the young who are usually most badly hit when jobs are few.
The direct effect of reducing unemployment has been
estimated to prevent up to 2,500 premature deaths a year, says Dorling, but
health benefits vary according to the method used.
For example, youth opportunity-type schemes are almost as
detrimental to psychological health as is unemployment itself. Temporary
employment is slightly better but not as good as a properly rewarded and
organised apprenticeship. Secure work is better than all these options, but the
best option for men and women aged 16-24 in the 1980s and 1990s was going to
college, which was associated with lower suicide risks.
The most highly valued education is university education,
writes Dorling. If three extra young people per 100 this summer go to
university and are out of the job market, another three people could fill those
jobs that the first three might have taken, another three percentage points
come off the dole queue and fewer youngsters compete with older workers who
have recently been made redundant.
More importantly, says Dorling, this approach recognises
that unemployment is bad for health, and that the best way of alleviating it is
to show faith in and respect for the young, because they are always worst hit
More university students does not need to mean more debt for
young people, he adds. It is just a case of priorities and recognising when the
time is right for someone to be there to help.