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Misery loves company? A meta-regression examining aggregate unemployment rates and the unemployment-mortality association

Roelfs, David J.; Shor, Eran; Blank, Aharon; Schwartz, Joseph E.

Purpose:

Individual-level unemployment has been consistently linked to poor health and higher mortality, but some scholars have suggested that the negative effect of job loss may be lower during times and in places where aggregate unemployment rates are high. We review three logics associated with this moderation hypothesis: health selection, social isolation, and unemployment stigma. We then test whether aggregate unemployment rates moderate the individual-level association between unemployment and all-cause mortality.

Methods:

We use six meta-regression models (each using a different measure of the aggregate unemployment rate) based on 62 relative all-cause mortality risk estimates from 36 studies (from 15 nations).

Results:

We find that the magnitude of the individual-level unemployment-mortality association is approximately the same during periods of high and low aggregate-level unemployment. Model coefficients (exponentiated) were 1.01 for the crude unemployment rate (P = .27), 0.94 for the change in unemployment rate from the previous year (P = .46), 1.01 for the deviation of the unemployment rate from the 5-year running average (P = .87), 1.01 for the deviation of the unemployment rate from the 10-year running average (P = .73), 1.01 for the deviation of the unemployment rate from the overall average (measured as a continuous variable; P = .61), and showed no variation across unemployment levels when the deviation of the unemployment rate from the overall average was measured categorically. Heterogeneity between studies was significant (P < .001), supporting the use of the random effects model.

Conclusions:

We found no strong evidence to suggest that unemployment experiences change when macroeconomic conditions change. Efforts to ameliorate the negative social and economic consequences of unemployment should continue to focus on the individual and should be maintained regardless of periodic changes in macroeconomic conditions.

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Also Published In

Title
Annals of Epidemiology
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.annepidem.2015.02.005

More About This Work

Academic Units
Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health
Publisher
Elsevier
Published Here
November 16, 2016