Research suggests layoffs can have adverse health effects, both
short term and long term A New York Times story by Michael Luo
reports that a
2006 study by a group of Yale epidemiologists found that people who lost their jobs
had doubled risk of stroke and heart attack, and a study last year found that
people who lost jobs faced an 83% higher risk of developing diabetes, arthritis
or psychiatric problems.
Till von Wachter, a Columbia University economist, and Daniel
Sullivan, research director at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, examined
records of earnings and Social Security Administration death records of Pennsylvania
workers during the recession of the 1980s. Their findings, citied in The Times story,
showed that men with long seniority in their jobs were 50 percent to 100 percent
more likely-depending on their age-to die in the year after a job
loss. Twenty years later, the researchers,
found, their death rates were still 10 to 15 percent higher than comparable men
who remained employed. That meant that a
man who lost his job at age 40 lost a year to a year and a half of his life. Read their paper here.
The Times story also quotes a 2009 study by Sarah Burgard
, a professor of sociology and epidemiology at the university
of Michigan, who found that persistent job insecurity might be as much or more
detrimental to health as job loss. In an
era when people are expected to find several jobs over the course of a career,
that has extraordinary public health implications.
While research on life expectancy is recent, the complex relationship
between health and work and the disruptive nature of job loss has long been documented.
In the 1986 leveraged buyout of Safeway, 63,000 managers and workers lost their
jobs through store sales and layoffs. A Pulitzer Prize winning Wall Street Journal story by Susan Faludi
, then a Journal reporter, examined the aftermath.
In addition to the organizational and structural changes in the business, her report described the wrenching
impact on workers and their families, including illnesses, suicides and deaths,
that those closest to the victims attributed to loss of livelihood.