Involuntary job loss affects male BMI and health behaviours

Olivia Miller
Picture by Pixabay

A new study led by Kent has found that involuntary job loss affects the Body Mass Index (BMI) of men and behaviours differentially across the life cycle.

The research published by Economics and Human Biology highlights the prevalence of young people being overweight or obese, with higher alcohol consumption and reduced physical activity after losing jobs through business closures, re-organisations, bankruptcies, or privatisation. The findings also suggested increased prevalence and intensity of smoking in middle aged men.

Employment is one of the most critical determinants of health and health behaviours for adults worldwide. While data from Ukraine over a period of 10 years was analysed to conclude these findings, this research presents wide ranging implications of involuntary job losses that have particular relevance following the Covid-19 pandemic. As the furlough scheme comes to an end in the UK at the end of September 2021 and other countries gradually reducing their Covid-19 economic support funds, the research shows concerning trends that could come to light.

The research was led by Dr Olena Nizalova, Senior Lecturer in Economics in Kent’s School of Economics and a joint Senior Research Fellow in Health Economics in Kent’s Centre for Health Services Studies (CHSS) and Personal Social Services Research Unit (PSSRU), alongside Professor Edward C. Norton (University of Michigan). The researchers monitored individuals from 2003-2012 allowing them to capture the long-term effects of past job loss on outcomes at a specific point in time and their trajectories across the life cycle.

Dr Nizalova said: ‘It is well documented how detrimental involuntary job losses can be to the mental health of those affected, but this research presents worrying findings that suggest how it can also go on to affect physical health too via engagement in health-compromising behaviours and avoidance of health-promoting behaviours. These findings could inform the design of more targeted policies to support displaced workers across various stages of life.’

The research paper titled ‘Long-Term Effects of Job Loss on Male Health: BMI and Health Behaviors’ is published by Economics and Human Biology. doi: 10.1016/j.ehb.2021.101038