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Unemployment can affect your children's health

At a glance:
Unemployment of one or both parents affects the physical and mental health
mental health
Emotional wellbeing. Ability to cope with difficulty and enjoy life. THe absence of a mental health problem.
 of their children. Adolescents whose parents had been out of work for more than a year rated their own health more poorly. Even having one parent out of work worsens children's self-reported health.
Being out of work is hard for most people. Whilst it may sound attractive to be at home and not have to attend work every day, most people in the situation say it is difficult. There is uncertainty about working in the future, financial worries and often tension in the rest of the family.

This study shows that being off work for the long term impacts the health of the whole family. The best way to prevent being off work in the longer term is to make an early return to work after sick leave or an injury.
An employee's family is also affected when they are off work for a long time. Habits develop and are difficult to change. Getting the person back to their normal job as early as possible works the best.

An early return to work not only improves the wellbeing of the employee, but contributes to the health of the whole family.
As health professionals we see the impact of being off work on the individual, and often on the person's partner and their relationship. This study shows the health of others in the family is also negatively affected by worklessness.

The best way prevent long–term unemployment is early return to work. It can be difficult to give clear advice for someone to return to work after an injury or illness, particularly if there is pain associated with fear and distress.
Severe suffering, pain, anxiety or sorrow

Patients need to know the long-term consequences of being off work, so that they are in a position to make the best choices for themselves and for their family.
When you help an employee back to work you help their family as well. It is sometimes hard to know all the ramifications of each case. However, we should let people know about the longer term problems faced by people off work, as it assists them to make positive decisions.
Original Article, Authors & Publication Details:
Maria Sleskova, M.Sc.a,*, Ferdinand Salonna, M.Sc.a, Andrea Madarasova Geckova, Ph.D.a, Iveta Nagyova, M.Sc.a, Roy E. Stewart, M.Sc.b, Jitse P. van Dijk, M.D., Ph.D.a,b, and Johan W. Groothoff, Ph.D.b

Does parental unemployment affect adolescents' health? Journal of Adolescent Health 2006, 38(5):527-535.

aInstitute of Social Sciences, Faculty of Science, PJ Safarik University, Kosice, Slovakia
bDepartment of Social Medicine, University of Groningen, Medical Center, Groningen, The Netherlands
Background, Study Objectives, How It Was Done:
Unemployment of one or both parents in a family can affect children's health in a number of ways.

This study investigated how adolescents' health is affected by:

The father's unemployment

The mother's unemployment

Either parent being unemployed

Both parents being unemployed

The authors also wanted to see if financial stress, family wealth and the parents' level of education could account for the link between unemployment and worse health.

2836 young people (45% male, 55% female) completed a survey. They were aged 14-22 and 98% lived at home with their parents, in one household. The number of people in the household varied from 1 to 8, with an average of 4. The number of people in paid employment per household varied from 0 to 6, with an average of 2.

Parents' employment:

The survey asked whether the adolescent's mother or father was working and, if not, how long they had been out of work. The mother and father were then grouped into categories:


Out of work less than one year

Out of work for longer than one year (long-term out of work)

Participants were also asked whether one or both parents were out of work.

Parents' education:

Information was collected on parents' education. Parents were divided into four categories:

University qualified

Completed secondary school

Completed an apprenticeship (without completing secondary school)

Primary school education only

Financial strain:

The participants were asked whether, in the past weeks, they had been unable to do certain activities because they could not afford it. This gave an idea of their family's financial situation.

Family wealth:

The family's wealth was measured in a similar way. Participants were asked whether they had a car, telephone and computer and whether they had their own room.

Participants' health:

The study participants were asked to rate their own health on scale of 1 to 5 (1 being bad and 5 being excellent). Participants who answered good, fairly good or bad were said to have “moderately rated health'.

Participants were also asked if they had a long-term illness (lasting more than three months), or if they had recently suffered certain short-term health problems. Finally, participants rated their general well-being on a scale of 1-7.
Study Findings:
Adolescents' health was worse when both their parents were out of work

When the father was out of work for more than a year, the children were more likely to say that they were in moderate health (bad, fairly good or good), and that their general wellbeing was low.

The mother's unemployment only affected the health of the female children. It did not affect the children's well-being.

Parental unemployment was not linked to the 13 short-term health complaints in the survey
This study found that short-term unemployment of the father or mother was not associated with poor health in children.

However, being out of work in the long-term did have an effect on children's health. Long term unemployment in either parent is associated with moderate self-rated health and low well-being. The father's unemployment had a greater effect on children's health than the mother's.

Financial stress can affect the health of a family, but this is not the only negative consequence of unemployment. This study found that even after financial stress was taken into account, the parent being out of work continued to influence adolescent health. Along with financial stress, unemployment can cause marriage problems and emotional distress. It is difficult to identify which of these factors are the most important in children's health.
PubMed Abstract
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