There have been conflicting reports on the relationship of women's health and employment status, according to Sheree Marshall-Williams, Ph.D., behavioral scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Ga.
Researchers found that women who had become involuntarily unemployed experienced more high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease such as heart attack, chest pain and stroke. They also faced a deterioration of mental health such as increases in stress, depression and emotional problems.
"Unemployed women who want to be employed clearly standout from the employed and homemakers as being at high risk for cardiovascular disease and poor mental health," she said. "We are surmising that the unemployed women have more social stress in response to being laid off and not being able to locate a job."
While results show an association between unemployment and cardiovascular disease and mental health, the reason for the worse health outcomes cannot be determined with the cross-sectional data in this study.
The data was drawn from 34,879 black and white American women, ages 2564 years, from the 2003 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey. They categorized the women into three groups: employed, involuntarily unemployed and homemakers. The women were asked about their mental and health status, and whether they had been diagnosed with high blood pressure or had cardiovascular disease such as a previous heart attack, chest pain or stroke.
Researchers controlled for other health factors such as diabetes and weight. Women with disabilities that precluded employment were excluded from the study.