Just another reason to hit the help wanted ads [mortality rates]

NationalPost.com – news
Apr. 18, 2011.    Ezra Black, National Post

Anyone who’s been laid off knows unemployment is hard on morale, but if a lack of income and too much daytime television weren’t bad enough, a new study shows that it can also kill you.

Eran Shor, professor of sociology at McGill University, found that unemployment increases the risk of early mortality by 63%. But if you’re of the fairer sex there’s less need to worry because unemployment increases men’s mortality much more than it does women’s (78% compared to 37% respectively).

“As the study shows, it’s definitely not good for you,” Shor says. “There is, at least partially, a causal effect here between unemployment and mortality.”

Shor says a combination of factors including persistent stress, financial woes and the human coping mechanisms of drinking, smoking and an unhealthy diet are the primary reasons the unemployed are likely to go before their time.

Hilary Predy, vice-president of business solutions at Adecco Employment Services, says she’s seen the faraway look of the recently unemployed. Predy says losing a job is comparable to losing a loved one in that there are phases one goes through: anger, denial, etc., until the person accepts their plight, or finds another job.

“A lot of people lose that inner energy, inner glow, when they experience long periods of unemployment,” she says.

But Debbie Moskowitz, professor of psychology at McGill University, says being unemployed is just a symptom of the real ailment: poverty. Not having a job may be distressing, but it’s the inability to pay for quality goods like health care, and living space that will kill you.

She says there is a proven link between mortality and lower socio-economic status and, for most people, losing a job means their socioeconomic status will decrease.

Shor says men are more affected than women because in Western society men are under more pressure to define their self identity through a profession. Secondly, men still get paid more than women, meaning they pay a higher economic penalty for joblessness.

But Fiona Martin, sociology professor at Dalhousie University, disagrees. Men, she says, have lower “social capital,” than women. This means they have fewer friends, fewer family connections and fewer social outlets to turn to in times of need. With less social support, men are more likely to take job loss on the chin.

“Women are generally more connected into relationships, most often with other women,” Martin says. “I think that this might explain some of the gender disparities.”

Shor adds that public health agencies should be “targeting this with interventions,” like cardiovascular screenings for the unemployed. He also has a message for the job-hunters: “Keep looking.”

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