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Lose Your Job? Good for the Rest of Us

Recession lowers mortality in the population overall—even as the out-of-work individual’s risk of death rises. Karen Hopkin reports

Losing your job is bad—for you. But it could be good for the rest of us. Because a study shows that a recession lowers mortality in the population overall—even as the out-of-work individual’s risk of death rises. That paradoxical finding appears in the American Journal of Epidemiology. [José A. Tapia Granados et al.: Individual Joblessness, Contextual Unemployment, and Mortality Risk]

It’s easy to imagine that the stress of getting canned could pave the way to an untimely demise. But can joblessness really improve societal survival? To find out, researchers examined data from the US Department of Labor and a 20-year survey of so-called “income dynamics.” And they found that job loss is linked to a 73 percent rise in the probability of death for the newly unemployed—the equivalent of adding 10 years to his or her age.

At the same time, parsing the data state by state, the researchers found that people in general live longer during an economic downturn—an extra year for each percentage-point rise in unemployment.

One possible explanation: when the economy is strong, people commute more and sleep less—raising the risk of car crashes and job-related injuries. Such accidents are less likely when folks are sitting on their couches polishing up their resumes.

—Karen Hopkin

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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