Heart Attacks and Unemployment Linked

Unemployment linked to increased heart attack risk

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Being unemployed might not just be bad for your bank account. It also appears to affect your heart. New research suggests that unemployment or multiple job losses in rapid succession, may be linked to an increased heart attack risk.

Little was previously known about whether a person's employment status could affect the heart.

Researchers found that the risk of heart attack was higher in individuals without jobs compared to the employed, particularly during the first year after losing a job.

These researchers also determined that the risk of heart attack increased incrementally from one job loss up to losing four jobs.

"Exercise often to lower heart attack risk."

Matthew E. Dupre, PhD, a lead researcher from Duke University, found that the heart attack risk is highest during the initial year of unemployment, though repeated job losses also were associated with a greater heart attack risk.

During the study, researchers followed 13,451 Americans between the ages of 51 and 75 participating in the Health and Retirement Study. Participants were interviewed every two years from 1992 through 2010. At the beginning of the study, 14 percent of participants were unemployed.

Of the patients, 70 percent had one or more job loss while participating in the study, and 35 percent were unemployed during a portion of the research. Investigators recorded 1,061 heart attacks over the course of the study.

Dr. Dupre noted that the elevated risk associated with multiple job losses was of a magnitude similar to traditional heart attack risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure or smoking.

In an accompanying commentary, William T. Gallo, PhD, from City University of New York, said the study, combined with previous research, should be enough to move beyond linking unemployment to increased heart attack risk.  He suggests new research instead focus on how and why job loss influences health.

"Sufficient evidence exists of the negative influence of job loss on health. The next generation of studies should identify reasonable pathways from job separation to illness so that non-occupational interventions may be developed and targeted to the most vulnerable individuals," Dr. Gallo wrote.

The study was recently published in Archives of Internal Medicine, a Journal of the American Medical Association Network publication.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 20, 2012
Last Updated:
April 3, 2013