"Our results suggest that late career involuntary job loss more than doubles the risk of subsequent stroke," said William Gallo, the senior author of the study and associate research scientist in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at Yale School of Medicine.
The researchers used six years of data from the national Health and Retirement Survey to identify 457 workers who were either laid off or left jobless because of a plant shutdown. The comparison group included 3,763 older persons who were still employed. All of the participants were born between 1931 and 1941. The researchers also took into account other risk factors such as smoking, problem drinking, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and mental health.
Gallo and co-authors studied the risk of both heart attack and stroke among older persons who lose their jobs. They found no link between involuntary unemployment and heart attack. The link with the incidence of strokes, however, was significant.
"The finding that involuntary job loss is associated with increased risk of subsequent stroke is an important one. It should be interpreted with caution, however, since the number of strokes among job losers was relatively small," he cautioned. "With longer follow-up, we will be able to more definitively assess the relationship between unemployment and stroke."
Gallo said the findings reveal the need for increased health education concerning potential health risks of job loss, added screening and prevention efforts during employment transitions, extended insurance coverage, or outreach programs to connect displaced workers with needed health services.