In my last post, we took a look at the psychological toll that extended periods of unemployment can have on those who are out-of work. So the last post concentrated on the mind. This one concentrates on the body: Research indicates that there may be physical health ramifications to long-term unemployment as well, over and above the psychological challenges. For example, some data is already suggesting a correlation between cardiovascular disease and unemployment. Causality has not yet been established yet: Sick or obese people may simply have more difficulty finding work, or may be disinclined to search energetically for work for other psychological reasons. But unemployment certainly isn’t good news from a medical perspective.
Mortality Impact of Unemployment
Unemployment affects mortality: Researcher by economists Till von Wachter and Daniel Sullivan concludes that older male workers who have been consistently employed, and who have recently experienced a job loss, experience have a 50 to 100 percent higher mortality rate than those who have not been laid off – enough to equate to an average of 1.5 years off an older workers’ life expectancy, in the aggregate.
Unemployed men are also 25 percent more likely to die of cancer, though again, that is not necessarily purely causal – unemployed men, for example, have less access to quality health care compared to their employed cohorts. But the price is paid one way or another.
For the most desperate and vulnerable, the pain of daily rejection becomes unbearable without help. For some, unemployment becomes literally a matter of life and death. Recent data from the Center for Disease Control confirms that suicide rates generally follow the business cycle – with suicides peaking during recessions and depressions, while falling when economic times were good. Official CDC numbers don’t yet address the current recession, as their numbers lag. But the Department of Defense is already reporting a sharp increase in suicide rates among troops – many of which are in the Reserve Components, and therefore struggling with the economic downturn right along with everyone else.
Some good news: There are more tools and resources available now than in generations past, which can help people struggling with the psychological and physical side-effects of long-term unemployment:
• We have a more organized public health outreach program to help people struggling with depression and suicidal ideation. (If you need help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.)
• There are more support groups and online mutual assistance communities available.
• Health insurance is more likely to cover mental health services than in past years, as many states have passed so-called “mental health parity” mandates requiring that insurance companies treat mental health disorders and treatments the same way they treat other medical disorders, illnesses and symptoms.
• The Veterans Administration has greatly expanded its mental health services to help those returning from wars.
• New generations of anti-depressants are far more effective, with fewer side effects, than ever before.
Furthermore, the traditional sources of support haven’t gone away. Pastors, priests, rabbis, teachers, doctors, counselors, and others involved in the human professions have broad networks of their own, and can help refer you to other resources that can help…