Being Unemployed Could Shorten Your Life Just As Much As Smoking Does

We’ve known for a while that smoking kills, and now we know that joblessness does, too. It’s sad news for America’s unemployed.

For years, less educated white women have had higher mortality rates, but researchers couldn’t pinpoint exactly why.

In fact, “the odds of dying for the least educated women were 37 per cent greater than for their more educated peers in any given year in the period of 1997 to 2001. The odds had risen to 66 per cent by the period of 2002 to 2006,” reports Sabrina Tavernise for The New York Times.

This is according to a paper led by Jennifer Karas Montez of Harvard University’s centre for Population and Development Studies, “Explaining The Widening Education Gap In Mortality Among U.S. White Women.” She analysed data from the National centre for Health Statistics on 47,000 women ages 45-84. 

There are a host of economic, social-psychological and health factors that come into play; but she drew a strong connection between education, unemployment, and mortality rates. Montez writes that:

“Better educated individuals are less likely to experience marital, parental, and financial stress; traumatic events such as divorce, assault, and the death of a child and depression. … Education is associated with a higher likelihood of being employed, avoiding financial hardship, owning a home, and having employment-related health insurance. These resources have become progressively more concentrated among higher educated groups as the U.S. labour market has bifurcated in recent decades.”

And while research has long shown that those with more education are generally healthier — with lower rates of obesity, and a higher likelihood of drinking in moderation — the reasons for higher mortality rates among less educated women goes beyond that.

Although the study doesn’t offer all the reasons why, it’s a fact that unemployment can lead to a loss of a sense of purpose and disconnection from the world — and other research shows that social isolation, and loss of purpose, has real health implications. We all need something to get us out of bed in the morning.

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