History Of Unemployment Linked To Higher Risk Of Heart Attack

People with a history of unemployment, multiple job losses, and periods of unemployment have a higher risk of having a heart attack, according to this study.

Researchers collected information on employment status several times between 1992 and 2010 from 13,451 adults, ages 51 to 75, who took part in the Health and Retirement Study.

At the start of the study 14% of the participants were unemployed. During the follow-up 69.1% lost their jobs at least once and 35.1% had spent some time being unemployed. After adjusting for several traditional risk factors for heart attack, researchers found that being unemployed was associated with a 35% higher risk of having a heart attack.

As the cumulative number of job losses increased, so did the risk of having a heart attack. Compared to people who did not lose their job, people who lost their job once had a 22% higher risk and people who lost their jobs four or more times had a 63% higher risk.

The risk of a heart attack was 27% higher during the first year after unemployment but not thereafter. The risk of heart attack associated with multiple job losses is similar to that associated with traditional risk factors for heart attack, such as smoking, diabetes, or high blood pressure.

Knowing a person’s employment history could help identify people at higher risk of having a heart attack, say the authors. The author of the Editorial notes that there is now sufficient evidence that job loss has a negative impact on health. What is needed next are studies on how and why job loss influences health.