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Early unemployment can contribute to adult health problems: results from a longitudinal study of school leavers
  1. A Hammarström,
  2. U Janlert
  1. Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Umeå University, Sweden
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr A Hammarström, Family Medicine, Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Umeå University, SE-901 85 UMEÅ, Sweden;


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.

  • health behaviour
  • psychological symptoms
  • somatic symptoms

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  • Funding: this study has been financed by The Swedish Council for Social Research and the National Institute of Public Health.

  • Conflicts of interest: none.

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