Fourteen percent were unemployed at the study's launch. And nearly seven in 10 experienced at least one job loss during the study period, which overlapped with the start of the recession in 2008, when U.S. unemployment approached a 30-year high.
Nearly 8 percent had a heart attack during the study period, and they were more likely to be older, male and white, and also more likely to live in the South.
Low income, low educational attainment, lack of health insurance, being overweight or obese, having high blood pressure or diabetes, a disability, depression, and a sedentary lifestyle also increased the risk of heart attack.
That said, the authors found that independent of all other risk factors, the odds for experiencing a heart attack went up with each additional job loss (up to the level of four or more job losses), when compared with those who never lost a job.
Also, while the first year of unemployment was associated with a boost in heart attack risk, unemployment longer than a year did not seem to further elevate risk.
The data did not include the reasons for job loss or the exact nature of the jobs, and the authors cautioned that both factors could play a role in heart attack risk. Dupre also said further research is needed before a direct cause-and-effect link can be established.
In an editorial accompanying the study, William Gallo of the City University of New York said future investigations should focus on the how's and why's of the association, including whether your stage of life at the time of job loss affects heart risk. The study participants were at or near the end of their careers.
Gregg Fonarow, a professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, said studies have shown that unemployment results in substantial physiologic stress. "
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