OBJECTIVE: To examine the quality of social support among unemployed residents in Trent, England. DESIGN: Secondary analysis of data generated by those of working age drawn from a postal lifestyle survey of the adult population of Trent region. SUBJECTS AND SETTING: Subjects were 6987 individuals (males 16-64 years and females 16-59 years of age), of whom 9.9% (689/6987) were unemployed. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Responses about the quality of social support obtained from three key questions. RESULTS: Generally, the unemployed reported poorer quality of social support than employed persons (p < 0.0001) on all three key elements examined: 31% v 17% respectively had no practical support; 19% v 10% had no help with solving problems, and 21% v 10% had no emotional support. Only 57% of the unemployed had all three of these elements compared with 75% of the employed. Unemployment and lack of social support had independent and deleterious effects on perceptions of general health and mental health. Relationships remained after allowing for the possible confounding effects of age, gender, and household composition. CONCLUSIONS: There is a relationship between unemployment and poorer quality of social support which may help to explain some of the increased morbidity and mortality experienced by this group, especially that related to mental health.
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