Can job status increase your risk of death?

Can job status increase your risk of death?

Whether you’re currently unemployed, anxious about losing your job or ready to take a leap of faith and quit, new research suggests that unemployment spells much more than a dip in income. In fact, losing a job could prove hazardous to your health.

Based on findings from a recent study conducted at Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine in Japan, not having a job may escalate your risk for having a stroke. And to make matters worse, the chances of actually dying from stroke may be higher if you’re unemployed, researchers say.

“Many people believe the occurrence of stroke is limited to our golden years. This isn’t the case. Strokes can happen to people at any age and at any time,” says Dr. Michael Anderson, an emergency medicine physician at Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago, a primary stroke center.

The 15-year study followed 21,902 Japanese men and 19,826 women between the ages of 40 and 59 to examine the long-term effects of employment status changes. This research showed that with even just a brief period of unemployment, middle-aged women were almost 50 percent more likely to have a stroke than their steadily-employed peers. Jobless women were also found to have a 150 percent higher chance of dying from stroke.

Middle-aged men who participated in the study fared about the same. Compared to their steadily-employed peers, men experiencing one spell of unemployment were nearly 60 percent more likely to have a stroke. Unemployed and re-employed men in the study had a 120 percent higher risk of dying from stroke.

While you may not be in complete control of your job security when facing company re-organizations, lay-offs and downsizings, Dr. Anderson says there are steps you can take now–whether you are employed or searching for work–to minimize your risk for stroke:

  1. Pay yourself first: Before you get too busy with all the things that take up your day, be sure to set aside time to make your health a priority. Physical activity such as brisk walking or dancing is something we can squeeze into our daily routine every day. And the benefits are bankable.
  2. Take stock of your habits: Are you eating for optimal health? If not, now may be a good time to up your game. A poor diet increases your risk for stroke and contributes to other life-altering conditions such as obesity, hypertension, heart issues and diabetes, which also increase your risk for stroke.
  3. Sharpen your skills: Pursuing a hobby will give you an outlet to relieve stress while you’re working and fuel your sense of purpose if you become unemployed.

More research is needed before we can make hard and fast conclusions about the effects of unemployment in the American culture, Dr. Anderson says. However, this study serves as a critical reminder that taking the steps necessary to protect our health is our most important job of all.

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About the Author

Cassie Richardson
Cassie Richardson

Cassie Richardson, health enews contributor, is regional coordinator on Advocate Aurora Health's Public Affairs team. She has more than 10 years of experience in health care communications, marketing, media and public relations. Cassie is a fan of musical theater and movies. When she’s not spreading the word about health and wellness advancements, she enjoys writing fiction.