Are Job Losses Truly Sickening?

As of the end of October, America's unemployment rate reached 10.2 percent. More than 15.7 million people are out of work. It's the highest rate in 26 years.

Without a doubt, America's economic ills affect the health of its citizens. Loss of employment often limits access to health insurance, leading people to postpone or avoid treatment, stop taking medications and forgo preventive care. But studies have shown that the experience of job loss itself can have harmful health effects.

Workers who lost their job through no fault of their own, were twice as likely to report the onset of a new illness such as high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease within 18 months, compared to those who remained employed. (Strully study, Harvard School of Public Health review of U.S. Panel of Income Dynamics data in 1999, 2001 and 2003)

When men became unemployed, symptoms of somatization, depression and anxiety increased. The men made significantly more visits to their physicians, took more medications and spent more days sick in bed than employed individuals, even though the number of diagnosis in the unemployed and employed groups were similar. (Linn, Sandifer and Stein study, American Journal of Public Health, May 1985)

Researchers in the 1970s estimated that every 1 percent increase in the unemployment rate in the U.S. leads to an additional 6,000 additional deaths each year. (Jin RL, The impact of unemployment on health: a review of the evidence. Canadian Medical Association Journal, Sept. 1, 1995)

All of us are sick of seeing the reports of rising unemployment. And rising unemployment is making our nation sicker.

Now, more than ever, we need to provide all our citizens with access to healthcare. It's a daunting task in times of economic duress. But we must not settle for anything less.

— Tom DeSanto

Image: Market Watch

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