Is High Unemployment Making Us All Sick?

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Our persistently high unemployment rate is not only bad for the economy, it’s bad for our bodies and souls as well. Unemployment wears down the unemployed both mentally and physically. But high unemployment also hurts those with jobs, as some workers worry endlessly (and not without justification) that they too could be let go at almost any moment, while others cling to jobs they hate because they’re acutely aware that almost no one’s hiring at the moment. (It’s a lot easier to tell your boss to go to hell if recruiters have you on speed dial.) Indeed, some research suggests that job insecurity, and the anxieties it provokes, can have even worse health effects than actually losing your job.

The unemployment rate currently sits at a little above 8%. While it’s down almost a percentage point from last year (in part because so many long-term unemployed have given up looking for work), few are predicting a sudden burst of hiring that could knock us out of our current malaise. Indeed, some are suggesting that we may have reached a new “natural level” of unemployment, a bit of speculation that’s all the more depressing because it’s all too plausible.

This is bad news for our bodies. Researchers have noted the serious effects of unemployment on our health for decades. One recent study by a researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health found that in the year and a half after losing their jobs, laid-off workers were at twice the risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease than those fortunate enough to remain employed. In a very real sense, unemployment kills: a 2009 study found that workers in Pennsylvania who lost their jobs at the age of 40 had their life expectancy reduced by a year.

(MORE: Work from Home and You Might Miss a Raise)

And unemployment wreaks havoc on our minds as well. The authors of a 2010 Pew Research Center report on the effects of long-term unemployment note that losing a job means not only “lost income” but “lost friends [and] lost self-respect” as well. Robert L. Leahy, director of the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy, recently told CNN that “being unemployed is actually one of the most difficult, most devastating experiences that people go through.” According to Leahy, unemployment doubles the chance of someone suffering from a major depressive episode — and this brings with it an increased chance of suicide.

But things aren’t much better for the employed, many of whom worry constantly about the very real prospect of losing their jobs in an unfriendly economy. Many put in longer hours and are unwilling to take advantage of their vacation days, hoping to convince their employers that they are team players. All this means more stress in an already stressful work environment.

This stress and worry has clear health effects. On Alternet, economic journalist Lynn Parramore makes the case that “Job Insecurity [Is] the Disease of the 21st Century — and It’s Killing Us.” Her language sometimes veers toward the melodramatic — at one point she refers to “freaked-out employees … coping with sweat-drenched nights and heart-pounding days.”

(MORE: The War on Suicide?)

But the problem she documents is all too real. A new study of workers in the state of Michigan, cited by Parramore, found that those who were worried about their jobs were significantly more likely to develop depression or suffer anxiety attacks or both. Earlier work by the same lead researcher, sociologist Sarah Burgard of the University of Michigan, found that employees worried about their jobs were more likely to suffer from depression and poor health than those who lost their jobs and got a new one. As Burgard told LiveScience, “chronic job insecurity was a stronger predictor of poor health than either smoking or hypertension in one of the groups we studied.”

And she’s not the only one to reach that dire conclusion. Research by  Stuart Whitaker, an occupational-health expert at the University of Cumbria in England, also suggests that worrying about being fired may be worse than being fired. As Whitaker told the Guardian:

Employees who are afraid of losing their jobs enter a damaging “anticipatory phase,” where they are aware their position is under threat but have no further knowledge … Employees made redundant or sacked move out of this phase into a “termination” phase, where they deal with the consequences rather than worrying about them.

At this point, you may want to sneak into the bathroom to have a little cry.

12 comments
Bill Harrison
Bill Harrison

Not only is unemployment bad for people, over-employment is also bad for people.  Which means that we could spread some of those work hours around more equally by capping hours per week instead of falling prey to the rat race mentality, and we'd all be better off:

http://www.theatlantic.com/bus... 

"If a group of people are working 60-80 hours per week at enormous personal cost to themselves, they are also "crowding out" large numbers of unemployed people who would be more than willing to work at least 40 hours per week. 

We know the long-term deleterious consequences of being overworked with no downtime.  We know the long-term deleterious consequences of unemployment.  Multiplied across an entire society over time?  It's a great recipe for a stressed and fragmented society, but not a great recipe for prosperity."

It's a more practical model because, as we all know, work expands to the time allotted to do it.

Mark Robison
Mark Robison

To Romney and some Republicans it is a world of survival of the fittest. The winners take all. It is a great accomplishment to become wealthy and rise above the masses. To their thinking the people below them deserve their fate, since  possibly they are not smart enough or not devious enough. They lack the rapacious attitude that destroyed 30,000,000 buffalo. Any attempt to right a system that produces men with billions of dollars and also produces men with no jobs and little money or hope is immediately labeled and cursed as communist or socialist. What amazes me are Republicans who our poor or jobless with no access to the wealth of America, who are conned into supporting a philosophy or ideology that does not benefit them

Cmdr_Casey_Ryback
Cmdr_Casey_Ryback

REALITY: no one with a brain will HIRE with OWE-bama the FOOL as president.

Got it?

nvrtalk
nvrtalk

Medical issues deteriorating from mistreatment until qualified for disability is the common route for the un-insured. 

Once medical care is available to all the rate of disability goes down.

Another benefit of ObamaCare.

Enjoy the future - it is much brighter.

Cmdr_Casey_Ryback
Cmdr_Casey_Ryback

RIDICULOUS

Only fools think OweBama's INCOMPETENCE will fix anything. Except for increasing membership in the Communist Party and NRA.

nvrtalk
nvrtalk

We will be better by  keeping and promoting  ObamaCare under the next few presidents. No matter who is in charge the result will be the same.  Better healthcare, earlier treatment and fewer people on disability. A workforce that shows up more often - better productivity for the whole nation. 

2009 study - "A study published online today estimates nearly 45,000 annual deaths are associated with lack of health insurance. That figure is about two and a half times higher than an estimate from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in 2002."

Communist Party has about 2,000 members - no growth. They do not consider Obama a Communist, or a Socialist, or even a Liberal. 

NRA's growth heyday was the 80-90's and lately they have been stable at 4.3million.

Cmdr_Casey_Ryback
Cmdr_Casey_Ryback

Those "studies" are put together by COMMIES and fools, the same FOOLS who produce W.H.O. "studies."

For every one of those "studies," there is another study that REFUTES the former.

OWE-BAMA KILLS JOBS

tcchen1935
tcchen1935

Millions of well paid American jobs will be created, if Ipads, Iphones and Mac Airs are made in America.

For that matter, if Dell, HP, Motorola, Mattel, GE, GM, Ford, Nike, among others, move back home their productions, tens of thousand of America jobs will be added.

But no American politicians, news media, economists have talked about the obvious and take necessary measures to make those multi-national companies to come back to give jobs to unemployed Americans.

Outsourcing to sweatshops overseas is bad not just for America,  it pollutes the overseas countries with poisonous industrial wastes and devastate their young workers mentally and physically in a few short years.

f_galton
f_galton

So Obama's job killing policies are literally killing people.

drabidea
drabidea

This is totally true. One aspect that wasn't really mentioned is that when we have less money we eat cheaper/unhealthier food which compounds the problem.

Also, the "new natural level of unemployment" is bull. It will only be the new level if we don't demand change. We need to fight the 1% for the money they stole from us.

LadyInRed
LadyInRed

Very true.  I am a 175 week'r (way above the 99'r) and have gained roughly 30 pounds.   I haven't seen a doctor in seven years because I can barely cover my mortgage with my cashed 401k.