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After Job Loss, People Report More Health Issues

Society should consider ways to mitigate the effects, experts say,,,,

FRIDAY, May 8 (HealthDay News) -- Losing a job can lead not just to financial hardships but to health problems as well, including high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, heart attack and stroke, new research has found.

"In today's economy, job loss can happen to anybody," Kate Strully, who conducted the research as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation scholar at the Harvard School of Public Health, said in a news release from the foundation. "We need to be aware of the health consequences of losing our jobs and do what we can to alleviate the negative effects."

Strully analyzed U.S. data on a wide range of occupations: managerial and professional positions; sales, clerical and craft jobs; machine operator jobs; and service positions.

Among white or blue collar workers who lost a job through workplace closure, the likelihood of reporting fair or poor health increased by 54 percent, she found. And the odds of developing a new health condition rose by 83 percent among those who had no preexisting health problems.

Even when these workers found new jobs, they still had an increased risk of new stress-related health problems, the analysis found.

There were differences detected between blue collar and white collar workers who'd been fired, laid off or voluntarily left a job, however. Job loss more than doubled the likelihood of reporting fair or poor health among blue collar workers, but it had no effect on the health status of white collar workers. The analysis did not determine the reasons for this difference.

The study appears in the May 8 issue of Demography.

"As we consider ways to improve health in America during a time of economic recession and rising unemployment, it is critical that we look beyond health-care reform to understand the tremendous impact that factors like job loss have on our health," David R. Williams, staff director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Commission to Build a Healthier America and a Harvard professor, said in the news release.

"Where and how we live, work, learn and play have a greater impact on how healthy we are than the health care we receive," Williams said.

More information

The American Psychological Association has more on the effects of stress.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, news release, May 8, 2009

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