|"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
|"The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
A growing body of research suggests that layoffs can have profound health consequences. One 2006 study by a group of epidemiologists at Yale found that layoffs more than doubled the risk of heart attack and stroke among older workers. Another paper, published last year by Kate W. Strully, a sociology professor at the State University of New York at Albany, found that a person who lost a job had an 83 percent greater chance of developing a stress-related health problem, like diabetes, arthritis or psychiatric issues.
In perhaps the most sobering finding, a study published last year found that layoffs can affect life expectancy. The paper, by Till von Wachter, a Columbia University economist, and Daniel G. Sullivan, director of research at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, examined death records and earnings data in Pennsylvania during the recession of the early 1980s and concluded that death rates among high-seniority male workers jumped by 50 percent to 100 percent in the year after a job loss, depending on the worker’s age. Even 20 years later, deaths were 10 percent to 15 percent higher. That meant a worker who lost his job at age 40 had his life expectancy cut by a year to a year and half.
Additional investigation is still needed to understand the exact connection between job loss and poor health, according to scientists. The focus is mostly on the direct and indirect effects of stress. Acute stress can cause biochemical changes that trigger heart attacks, for example. Job loss and chronic stress can also lead to lifestyle changes that damage health.
Studies have, for instance, tied job loss to increased smoking and greater chances of former smokers relapsing. Some laid-off workers might start drinking more or exercising less. Increased prevalence of depression has been tied to both job loss and the development of heart disease.
“We’re just at the very beginning of studying pathways,” said William T. Gallo, a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Hunter College in New York. “We want to find out how we can intervene so we can lessen the effects of job loss, or eliminate them.”