9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN16 Sociology of Health and Illness

2009-09-03 15:30:00 2009-09-03 17:00:00 Thursday, 3 September 15:30 - 17:00 Inequalities and Social Divisions in European Health II Building I, 1E4

Effects of short-term and long-term unemployment on health behaviors. Evidence from a panel study

This study deals with the effects short- and long-term unemployment has on health behaviours. Using data from the German Socio-Economic Panel (2002-2006), we investigate the effects of short-term and long-term unemployment on smoking behavior and BMI from a stress-related perspective.
The negative effects of unemployment on diverse health outcomes have been extensively documented in the literature. However, evidence on how unemployment affects health behaviors, in particular smoking, exercise and dieting, is rather scarce. Specifically, the causal direction of this relationship is subject to debate and besides, we know little about the effects of unemployment duration on health behaviors.
Applying zero-inflated negative binomial regression models and fixed effects linear regression models and controlling for socio-economic background characteristics, we find that unemployment causes a significant increase in smoking probability as well as a significant increase in a person?s BMI. However, the findings differ depending on unemployment duration and gender. The likelihood of smoking increases considerably stronger in men than in women while long-term unemployment of two years and longer increases the number of cigarettes smoked in women but not in men. Furthermore, unemployment duration exacerbates the effects on smoking probability in a non-linear way. With respect to BMI, long term unemployment significantly increases a man?s BMI, while women?s BMI is not influenced by unemployment.
Our study delivers evidence that health risks accumulate within the group of the unemployed also with regard to health behaviors. In the discussion, however, we argue that this effect is mediated by cognitive, emotional and behavioral processes occurring in the respective actors and their social environments.