Re-employment, job quality, health and allostatic load biomarkers: Prospective evidence from the UK Household Longitudinal Study

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Background: There is little evidence on whether becoming re-employed in poor quality work is better for health and wellbeing than remaining unemployed. We examined associations of job transition with health and chronic stress related biomarkers among a population representative cohort of unemployed British adults. Methods: A prospective cohort of 1116 eligible participants aged 35 to 75 years who were unemployed at wave 1 (2009/2010) from the UK Household Longitudinal Study were followed up at waves 2 (2010/2011) and 3 (2011/2012) for allostatic load biomarkers and self-reported health. Negative binomial and multiple regression models estimated the association between job adversity and these outcomes. Results: Compared to adults who remained unemployed, formerly unemployed adults who transitioned into poor quality jobs had higher levels of overall allostatic load (0.51, 0.32-0.71), log HbA1c (0.06, <0.001-0.12), log triglycerides (0.39, 0.22-0.56), log C-reactive protein (0.45, 0.16- 0.75), log fibrinogen (0.09, 0.01-0.17), and total cholesterol to HDL ratio (1.38, 0.88-1.88). Moreover, physically healthier respondents at wave 1 were more likely to transition into good and poor quality jobs after 1 year than those who remained unemployed. Conclusions: Formerly unemployed adults who transitioned into poor quality work had greater adverse levels of biomarkers compared to their peers who remained unemployed. The selection of healthier unemployed adults into these poor quality or stressful jobs was unlikely to explain their elevated levels of chronic stress related biomarkers. Job quality cannot be disregarded from the employment success of the unemployed, and may have important implications for their health and wellbeing.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-57
JournalInternational Journal of Epidemiology
Issue number1
Early online date10 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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