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Study: Losing your job could lead to heart disease

Study: Losing your job could lead to heart disease

According to researchers, it's just not your bills that will suffer from unemployement, it's your health

November 27th, 2012 by Daryl Nelson of ConsumerAffairs in News

There's no doubt that joblessness hurts a lot of different areas of life.

Obviously, household bills are slow to be paid if they're able to be paid at all, savings accounts have to be tapped into and made into primary accounts and spending on things like eating out, going to the movies or just making a frivolous purchase seem to dramatically decrease.

But what are the health ramifications attached to unemployment? Of course one could easily associate the lack of health coverage to poorer health, but how else does not having gainful employment affect one's level of well-being?

According to a recent study, unemployment can lead to heart attacks, particularly among the older portion of the work force. This was determined after researchers from Duke University surveyed both men and women since 1992 on a bi-annual basis, to establish a correlation between joblessness and heart disease.

The participants consisted of 13,000 men and women who were questioned about their level of health as well their employment status, and it was determined that Americans between the ages of 50 and 75 had a 35 percent higher chance of developing a heart attack if unemployed, compared to others who had similar health issues but still had their job.

One factor

The findings proved to researchers that not having a job could be the one factor that pushes a person over the edge of proper health and causes them to have a heart attack when declining health was already an issue.

This supports the findings of a 2009 Harvard study that showed heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes can develop quickly after someone is laid off from a job, as opposed to quitting.

In the Duke study it was never revealed how the unemployed participants lost their jobs, but researchers said losing a position to no fault of their own was most likely the main contributor of becoming less healthy and ultimately becoming heart attack victims.

"The [size] of the impact was striking to us," said Dr. Eric Peterson head author of the study in an interview. "There is this compounded effect of multiple job losses on an individual's health. I think that was interesting and unique to see."

The researchers also documented the health state of each respondent and took heart disease contributors like smoking, high-blood pressure and poor diet into account to determine heart attack risks. But after considering all of these factors, the study still showed that joblessness was a leading cause in the participants declining health.

And although it wasn't determined if unemployment was the sole cause of the respondents getting a heart attack, researchers saw it was a primary factor, especially for those who previously showed signs of heart disease before losing their job.

And during the study, 69 .7 percent lost their jobs at least one time, 7.9 percent suffered a heart attack, and 14 percent of the participants didn't have a job at the start of the research.

Behavior affected

Additionally, researchers learned that losing a job also led to behaviors that may add to the risk of heart disease like smoking, developing high blood pressure through stress and other things linked to being abruptly let go from a position.

"The risks of heart attacks associated with multiple job losses were of the magnitude of other established risk factors, such as smoking, hypertension and diabetes," said Duke study author Dr. Matthew E. Dupree.

And the fact the health of older Americans seem to be more impacted by a job loss could be because younger workers may already expect their employment may be for a short while, as staying with one company until retirement is far from the norm nowadays, and the younger generation has seemed to except this.

Although losing a job is extremely unfortunate for a person of any age, younger workers may be prepared for it a little bit more since the word "job-security" doesn't really apply these days, as companies and employers are continually cutting back and downsizing, while choosing to carry on with a smaller staff to spend less money.

Dupre says the findings weren't at all a shock to the researchers, but the fact that joblessness seemed to have as heavy as an impact as other factors associated with heart disease, was extremely troubling for them.

"We weren't surprised to find the association, but we were surprised to find that the effects were so large, on par with classic risk factors such as hypertension and diabetes," he said.