Researchers link unemployment to lifespan


Despite the apparent downsides to unemployment, two professors at Wilfrid Laurier University have found that unemployed Canadians may in fact live longer.
Hideki Ariizumi and Tammy Schirle of the university’s economics department have compiled a study based on over thirty years of data. The study will appear in a report by the Canadian Labour Market and Skills Researcher Network next month.

“The project was actually done very quickly,” Schirle told The Cord. According to Schirle, the two had already been working on a project examining the correlation between unemployment and mortality.

“No one had touched on the Canadian side yet,” Ariizumi said. When the pair discovered this, they turned their attention specifically toward Canadian statistics.
Schirle and Ariizumi found that during times of recession, mortality rates of middle-aged Canadians were exceptionally low.

When asked to identify a cause, the professors named numerous factors. “People [have] fewer car accidents during recessions, they aren’t driving as much, they don’t go out drinking that much, they don’t go out partying that much,” Schirle explained. “All these things lead to lower mortality rates.”

Other contributing factors included individuals tending to spend less money on fast food and cigarettes and finding more time on leisurely exercise. Numerous studies have also found that unemployed persons sleep more.

In other countries, research has shown that heart disease decreases during times of recession.

“The biggest difference between the U.S. and the Canadian data we found was that while in the U.S., in seniors, mortality rates drop during recessions,” Schirle explained. “We don’t get that in Canada.”

She and Ariizumi attributed this to Canada’s health care system. “It brings light to the importance of Canada’s health care institutions, keeping Canadians healthy regardless of what kind of economy we’re in,” she said.

Ariizumi emphasized that while these results show a correlation between recession and mortality, it is obviously better to seek employment. “I’m a little afraid that people will take this as ‘unemployment is good for health,’” he said. “Obviously, being unemployed is not a very good thing.”

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