Health-related selection into employment among the unemployed
BMC Public Health , 22:657, 1–12 (2022)
Background: Successful transitions from unemployment to employment are an important concern, yet little is known about health-related selection into employment. We assessed the association of various physical and psychiatric conditions with finding employment, and employment stability.
Methods: Using total population register data, we followed Finnish residents aged 30–60 with an unemployment spell during 2009–2018 (n = 814,085) for two years from the onset of unemployment. We predicted any, stable, and unstable employment by health status using Cox proportional hazards models. The data on specialized health care and prescription reimbursement were used to identify any alcohol-related conditions and poisonings, psychiatric conditions and self-harm, injuries, and physical conditions. We further separated physical conditions into cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and neurological conditions, and psychiatric conditions into depression, anxiety disorders and substance use disorders.
Results: The likelihood of any employment was lower among those who had any of the assessed health conditions. It was lowest among those with alcohol-related or psychiatric conditions with an age-adjusted hazard ratio of 0.45 (95% confidence interval 0.44, 0.46) among men and 0.39 (0.38, 0.41) among women for alcohol-related and 0.64 (0.63, 0.65) and 0.66 (0.65, 0.67) for psychiatric conditions, respectively. These results were not driven by differences in socioeconomic characteristics or comorbidities. All the included conditions were detrimental to both stable and unstable employment, however alcohol-related and psychiatric conditions were more harmful for stable than for unstable employment.
Conclusions: The prospects of the unemployed finding employment are reduced by poor health, particularly alcohol-related and psychiatric conditions. These two conditions may also lead to unstable career trajectories. The selection process contributes to the health differentials between employed and unemployed people. Unemployed people with health problems may therefore need additional support to improve their chances of employment.