Single transitions and persistence of unemployment are associated with poor health outcomes

Gerrie Cor Herber*, Annemarie Ruijsbroek, Marc Koopmanschap, Karin Proper, Fons Van Der Lucht, Hendriek Boshuizen, Johan Polder, Ellen Uiters

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: Although job loss has been associated with decline in health, the effect of long term unemployment is less clear and under-researched. Furthermore, the impact of an economic recession on this relationship is unclear. We investigated the associations of single transitions and persistence of unemployment with health. We subsequently examined whether these associations are affected by the latest recession, which began in 2008. Methods: In total, 57,911 participants from the Dutch Health Interview Survey who belonged to the labour force between 2004 and 2014 were included. Based on longitudinal tax registration data, single employment transitions between time point 1 (t1) and time point 2 (t2) and persistent unemployment (i.e. number of years individuals were unemployed) between t1 and time point 5 (t5) were defined. General and mental health, smoking and obesity were assessed at respectively time point 3 (t3) and time point 6 (t6). Logistic regression models were performed and interactions with recession indicators (year, annual gross domestic product estimates and regional unemployment rates) were tested. Results: Compared with individuals who stayed employed at t1 and t2, the likelihood of poor mental health at the subsequent year was significantly higher in those who became unemployed at t2. Persistent unemployment was associated with poor mental health, especially for those who were persistently unemployed for 5 years. Similar patterns, although less pronounced for smoking, were found for general health and obesity. Indicators of the economic recession did not modify these associations. Conclusions: Single transitions into unemployment and persistent unemployment are associated with poor mental and general health, obesity, and to a lesser extend smoking. Our study suggests that re-employment might be an important strategy to improve health of unemployed individuals. The relatively extensive Dutch social security system may explain that the economic recession did not modify these associations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number740
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jun 2019


  • Economic recession
  • Health
  • Health related behavior
  • Longitudinal study
  • Transitions
  • Unemployment

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