People who experience early redundancy have poor health in later life

People who involuntarily lose their job early in their career have poorer health in later life, according to new findings from the University of Kent in the UK and the University of Bamberg in Germany. Researchers, including Dr Olena Nizalova from the Centre for Health Service Studies (CHSS) within the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research (SSPSSR) at Kent, set out to establish what the long-term implications of enforced unemployment are on individuals over the course of their life, particularly in later life.

They used data from the third wave (2008/09) of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) to understand how being made redundant within the first ten years of entering the labour market can have negative effects on health over 30 years later.

In total they examined the data on 946 individuals who suffered involuntary job losses, with 657 due to layoffs while 289 were due to plant closures. The median age of those surveyed who lost their job was 22 and they were interviewed an average of 39 years later.

Overall, those that had lost a job early in their career were found to be 5-6% more likely to rate their health as fair or poor, compared to those that had not experienced an early career redundancy. Compared to the effect of other determinants of health in the analysis this impact was of a similar size on health in later life to having five fewer years of education.


Long term consequences

Dr Nizalova said: ‘It is well-known that losing your job can have major short-term health implications but our research demonstrates the impact can last far longer and lead to life-long negative health impacts. This is a notable finding and it demonstrates that more work needs to be done to understand the full implications of job losses on long-term health and how it can be managed.’

The findings, if replicated in future studies, could help government better understand the implication of unemployment on later life in terms of health impacts and create policies that take this into account for workers affected, particularly during periods of high unemployment.

The researchers noted that when younger workers laid-off during the Great Recession reach the same age as those surveyed in this sample there will be further opportunities to study the long-term effects of early career job loss.

The paper, The effect of an early-career involuntary job loss on later life health in Europe, was published in the journal Advances in Life Course Research.  The authors were Dr Olena Nizalova, University of Kent, Dr Jonas Voßemer and Professor Michael Gebel from the University of Bamberg and Olga Nikolaieva from the Kyiv School of Economics.