Losing your job can be devastating for your mental well-being – but new research has found that it may also be bad for your heart. Repeated job losses appear to be even worse.
U.S. researchers gathered health and job data from more than 13,000 people ages 51-75 from 1992 to 2010. There were 1,061 heart attacks in the group. After adjusting for other risk factors such as smoking and hypertension, “the researchers found that being unemployed also increased the risk of a heart attack, by an average of 35 per cent,” The New York Times writer Nicholas Bakalar reports. And that figure climbed with any successive job loss. Losing one job was linked to a 22-per-cent increase in heart attack risk and losing two with a 27-per-cent increase. A loss of four or more jobs was correlated with a 63-per-cent increase, he writes.
“We don’t know what the mechanisms are,” lead author Matthew Dupre, an assistant professor of medicine at Duke University in North Carolina, told Bakalar. “But until we do, it’s important to be aware of what the stress of a job loss might do, and that people who experience more than one loss might be at even higher risk.”
And it appears that the difference between a person who has never lost a job and someone who has been unemployed four or more times is as big as the difference between a non-smoker and a smoker when it comes to health problems, Time magazine reports.
Possible reasons for the connection could include the role of stress hormones and a reduced ability to pay for healthy food and active hobbies. And in the United States, another factor could be the loss of health insurance occurring when people leave jobs, which may lead to reduced health care, Time reports.
Then again, staying at your desk has its own negative health implications. One study linked working more than 11 hours a day with depression. Another found that work demands may exacerbate physical symptoms too.
But lest we fret that our job – or lack thereof – is making us sick, experts point out that the relationships are undoubtedly complex. As Dr. Richard Heron from the Society of Occupational Medicine in Britain told the Mirror: “It’s often difficult to differentiate the mix of personal, home and work health issues. Someone may have a pre-existing condition, and they may also have issues in the workplace. It’s often the combination of these that is ultimately what leads to them becoming ill.”