Causation and Selection in the Relationship of Job Loss to Health in the United States

While involuntary job loss could have significant negative consequences for subsequent health, poor health itself may also influence the risk of losing a job. In this study, the authors assessed whether poor health was a significant factor in leading to job loss or whether the involuntary job loss precipitated any decline in health status.

Researchers used two large longitudinal study samples that are representative of the U.S. population: the Americans' Changing Lives study (ACL) and the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (WLS). The samples include men and women across the occupational spectrum who were studied over a period of 15 to 35 years.

Key Findings:

  • After controlling for people who were already sick to begin with, the research found that involuntary job loss is a significant factor in the decline of one's health.
  • Workers who lose their jobs involuntarily are likely to experience a decline in health and worsening depressive symptoms.
  • Workers who lose their job due to health reasons, or who suffer a serious or life-threatening health event shortly after the job loss, appear to experience the most precipitous declines in health. These same workers may have a difficult time obtaining care once they lose their jobs.

The authors conclude that experiencing an involuntary job loss may have significant and measurable health consequences for many Americans. They recommend the development of policies to address the adverse health consequences of job loss.