Early-Career Job Loss Negatively Affects Long-term Health
Sociologists at the University of Bamberg analyse employment biographies
Numerous studies have suggested that job loss and unemployment lead to poorer health. Sociologists at the University of Bamberg are now continuing this research and have set out to answer whether job loss still has health-related consequences even if it occurred decades ago and subsequent employment may have been found. Jonas Voßemer and Professor Michael Gebel, Chair of Methods of Empirical Social Research at the University of Bamberg, have shown with their current research that involuntary loss of employment early in a person’s career has long term health implications. Even more than 30 years later, negative health impacts can be traced back to early-career job loss.
For their study, the researchers used data from the SHARELIFE survey which is the third wave of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE). The transnational study interviewed approximately 28,000 Europeans over the age of 50 about their social and familial networks, health, and socio-economic status over the course of their lives. The analyses, carried out by Voßemer and Gebel in cooperation with Dr. Olena Nizalova of the University of Kent in England and Olga Nikolaieva of the Kyiv School of Economics in Ukraine, reveal that people who involuntarily lost their jobs within the first ten years of their professional lives were on average 6 percentage points more likely to rate their own health as fair or poor compared to those who had not experienced a loss of employment in the same phase, but had otherwise similar characteristics.
The researchers were also able to show that the effects were the same for employees who were laid off and for those whose jobs were lost due to plant closures. This suggests that the data analyses could avoid the effects of confounding factors, because in the case of a plant closure, all employees are affected and it is less likely that the job loss could be explained by personal characteristics that would also affect health. So what conclusions can be drawn from these findings? Voßemer says, “Consistent with earlier studies, we have shown that losing a job and periods of unemployment have more than just financial consequences. Moreover, our study indicates that these consequences may be long lasting.” These findings, if replicated in future studies, suggest that policy makers should consider both health implications and their persistence when evaluating the costs of job loss and unemployment.
The study is part of the international and interdisciplinary EXCEPT project (Social Exclusion of Youth in Europe: Cumulative Disadvantage, Coping Strategies, Effective Policies and Transfer) which received approximately 2.4 million euros in funding from the European Union.
The study is available online at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.alcr.2018.01.001
Further information on the EU-project EXCEPT can be found at https://www.uni-bamberg.de/en/empsoz/research/except-project/
Jonas Voßemer, M.A.
Methods of Empirical Social Research