Early unemployment can contribute to adult health problems: results from a longitudinal study of school leavers
- Correspondence to: Dr A Hammarström, Family Medicine, Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Umeå University, SE-901 85 UMEÅ, Sweden;
- Accepted 19 October 2001
Study objective: To investigate the long term effects of early unemployment (a total of more than half a year of unemployment between the ages of 16 and 21) on health behaviour and psychological and somatic symptoms.
Design: A 14 year follow up of a cohort of school leavers was conducted from 1981 to 1995. Information was collected by questionnaires.
Setting: An industrial town in northern Sweden.
Participants: The original cohort was defined as all pupils in a middle sized municipality in the last year of compulsory school at age 16 (n=1083). The participants were followed up between the ages of 16 and 30. The analysis included 96% of the original sample, 547 men and 497 women
Main results: After controlling for initial health behaviour and symptoms as well as for working class background and late unemployment, early unemployment among young men and women showed a significant explanatory effect on smoking, psychological symptoms and—among men only—somatic symptoms after a follow up of 14 years. No correlation was found between early unemployment and late excess alcohol consumption.
Conclusions: Early unemployment can contribute to adult health problems. Thus, youth unemployment constitutes a significant public health problem, which to a certain extent remains in adult age.
Funding: this study has been financed by The Swedish Council for Social Research and the National Institute of Public Health.
Conflicts of interest: none.