The Scarring Effects of Persistently High Unemployment: How losing your job jeopardizes your health and can shorten your life

Date: November 5, 2010

This video from last November shows the first session of a two-forum EPI series on the long-term consequences of high unemployment and its impact on health outcomes for jobless workers and their families.

Recently, June 2009 was declared the official end of the Great Recession, yet workers are hurting now more than ever. Unemployment is currently at 9.6%, with forecasters predicting an unemployment rate of over 8% through 2012. Of unemployed workers today, over 40% have been unemployed for longer than six months, and roughly 30% have been unemployed for longer than a year. To the American worker, this recession is far from over, and the scarring effects of such crippling unemployment have far-reaching consequences.

This, the first in a two-forum series on the long-term consequences of high unemployment, will examine health outcomes for jobless workers and their families. The most direct impact of unemployment is loss of health insurance coverage, which can also affect spouses of workers and their children. Our distinguished speakers will also discuss the effects of job loss on a worker’s general physical and mental wellbeing and explore whether extended periods of joblessness correlate to catastrophic illness and even premature mortality.


Kate Strully, PhD, is an Assistant Professor at SUNY-Albany. Her research seeks to understand the causal pathways responsible for economic disparities in health, particularly how health influences—and is influenced by—social position.

William Gallo, PhD, an Associate Professor at the Hunter College School of Public Health, is a health economist and gerontologist at whose primary research interest is the health and behavioral effects of involuntary job loss in workers nearing retirement.

Till M. von Wachter, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Economics at Columbia University. His research examines the impact of job displacement on the future incomes of workers and retirees and finds and finds that mortality rates rise for 15-20 years after job loss.


John Holahan, PhD, Director of the Health Policy Center at the Urban Institute