Background Research in social epidemiology has repeatedly shown a positive relationship between job loss and poor health. Because of the economic crisis, the question how the harmful effects of job loss on health can be mitigated has gained considerable relevance. European governments have aimed to limit the health effects of unemployment through a range of different social protection policies. In this study, we examine the impact of job loss on health in 23 European countries, during the first years of the economic crisis. Additionally, we examine whether expenditure on active labour market policies, unemployment benefits, and the total expenditure on social protection are able to mitigate the harmful effect of job loss on health.
Methods We analysed the longitudinal component of the European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC). The EU-SILC include data on individuals from 30 European countries. We compare one base year (2007) with two follow-up years (2009 and 2010). To measure job loss, we assessed whether people who were employed in the base year had indicated in the follow-up year that they were unemployed. Health was measured by a general self-assessment. Information on expenditure on active labour market policies, unemployment benefits, and total social expenditure was obtained from Eurostat. We control for self-rated general health, chronic illness, and health limitations in the base year, and several socio-demographic variables at the individual and national level. To analyse the data, multilevel logistic regression analyses were performed.
Results Preliminary results show that job loss between the base year and the follow up year is significantly and positively associated with reporting poor health in the follow up year, adjusting for all individual control variables (OR=1.66). We find only one significant cross-level interaction effect: for women, the effect of job loss on poor health is significantly stronger as expenditure on unemployment benefits is higher (OR=1.11).
Conclusion Job loss is related to reporting poor health after a follow-up period of two or three years. Additionally, social protection policies do not appear to mitigate the detrimental impact of job loss on health. For women, we even find that a higher average level of expenditure on unemployment benefits is related to a stronger harmful effect of job loss on health. Hence, we find little support for the claim that increased expenditure on social protection policies would limit the harmful consequences of job loss on health in Europe during the economic crisis.
- job loss
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