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Unemployment and Health: Contextual Level Influences on the Production of Health in Populations

Author

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  • Francois Beland
  • Stephen Birch
  • Greg Stoddart

Abstract

While there is a large and growing literature investigating the relationship between an individuals' employment status and his or her health, considerably less is known about the effect on this relationship of the context in which unemployment occurs. The aim of this paper is to test for the presence and nature of contextual effects in the ways unemployment and health are related, based on a simple underlying model of stress, social support and health using a large population health survey. An individual's health can be influenced directly by own exposure to unemployment and by exposure to unemployment in the individual's context, and indirectly by the effects these exposures have on the relationship between other health determinants and health. Based on this conceptualization an empirical model, using multi-level analysis, is formulated that identifies a five -stage process for exploring these complex pathways through which unemployment affects health. Results showed that the association of individual unemployment with perceived health is statistically significant. Nevertheless, this study did not provide evidence to support the hypothesis that the association of unemployment with health status depends upon whether the experience of unemployment is shared with people living in the same environment.. Above all, this study demonstrates both the subtlety and complexity of individual and contextual level influences on the health of individuals. Our results caution against simplistic interpretations of the unemployment-health relationship and reinforce the importance of using multi-level statistical methods for investigation of it.

Suggested Citation

  • Francois Beland & Stephen Birch & Greg Stoddart, 2001. "Unemployment and Health: Contextual Level Influences on the Production of Health in Populations," Social and Economic Dimensions of an Aging Population Research Papers 54, McMaster University.
  • Handle: RePEc:mcm:sedapp:54
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    File URL: http://socserv.mcmaster.ca/sedap/p/sedap54.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Ronald Lee & Jonathan Skinner, 1999. "Will Aging Baby Boomers Bust the Federal Budget?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 13(1), pages 117-140, Winter.
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    3. Lee, Ronald & Tuljapurkar, Shripad, 1998. "Uncertain Demographic Futures and Social Security Finances," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(2), pages 237-241, May.
    4. Frank T. Denton & Byron G. Spencer, 1999. "Population Aging and Its Economic Costs: A Survey of the Issues and Evidence," Social and Economic Dimensions of an Aging Population Research Papers 1, McMaster University.
    5. Ronald Lee & Shripad Tuljapurkar, 1997. "Death and Taxes: Longer life, consumption, and social security," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 34(1), pages 67-81, February.
    6. Ronald Lee & Shripad Tuljapurkar, 1998. "Stochastic Forecasts for Social Security," NBER Chapters,in: Frontiers in the Economics of Aging, pages 393-428 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Unemployment; population health; contextual effect; multi-level models; survey data set; census data set;

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior

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