While work can be a major source of stress for many people, unemployment can be even more perilous for your heath. A recent study shows that losing your job puts you at an increased risk for stroke.
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Researchers followed for more than two decades a group of more than 40,000 men and women between the ages of 40 and 59 through varying employment statuses.
They found that experiencing just one incidence of unemployment was associated with higher risks of stroke compared with continuously being employed. Their results indicate that just one instance of job loss was more likely to result in an increase in smoking, alcohol use, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Stress can equal stroke risk
Stress brought on by lifestyle changes certainly can impact a person’s risk for stroke, says neurologist Andrew Russman, DO. Dr. Russman did not take part in the study.
“People who are unemployed are under an increased amount of stress, and stress can change lifestyle behaviors, such as increasing alcohol use. Stress also can lead to difficulty controlling high blood pressure,” Dr. Russman says. “Both of these things result in significant increases in our risk of stroke.”
In addition, unemployment can result in certain stresses that might not exist while we’re employed, making us more likely to experience a change in health habits — whether it’s eating less healthy or even skipping medications in an effort to save money.
Loss of health care
Losing health insurance coverage due to unemployment can play a critical role in maintaining health, Dr. Russman says.
“This gap in health insurance coverage could actually result in a decline in health, because people then may be unable to get or take their medications for things like high blood pressure, cholesterol or diabetes, which are important to help control the risk of stroke,” Dr. Russman says.
If you anticipate a job loss or a change in income, you need to make your health a priority, Dr. Russman says. He recommends talking to a doctor about what resources might be available, so you can continue to take important medications. Many pharmacies offer medication discount programs.
Complete results of the study can be found in the April issue of the journal Stroke.