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The effect of local unemployment on health: A longitudinal study of Irish mothers 2001-2011

Jonathan Briody, Orla Doyle and Cecily Kelleher

Economics & Human Biology, 2020, vol. 37, issue C

Abstract: The relationship between economic conditions and health is mixed, with some evidence from the most recent financial crisis finding a positive effect of periods of unemployment on heath behaviours. This study uses longitudinal data spanning the periods before, during and after the Irish crisis of 2007, to test the impact of economic expansion and contraction on mothers physical and mental health and health behaviours. Three waves of data from the Irish Lifeways Cohort Study for the period 2001–2011, and local area employment rates from the Irish Census, are used to capture the impact of a period of increased unemployment on health before, during and after the Irish recession, independent of individual employment status. The results from fixed effect linear probability models demonstrate that an additional unit of local area unemployment increases the probability of reporting poor self-rated health by 1–1.8 percentage points and of reporting poor mental well-being by 1.4 and 2.7 percentage points depending on the instrument used. There are decreases in the probability of consuming cigarettes by 3.3 percentage points, self-describing as a regular smoker by 2.9 percentage points and obesity by 0.9 percentage points. The probability of engaging in at least 20 minutes of strenuous or moderate exercise per week declines by 7.8 and 8.7 percentage points respectively, while the probability of engaging in at least 20 minutes of mild exercise rises by 10 percentage points. These results are largely consistent with the US literature, which is predominantly based on working men, thus demonstrating the universal impact of economic vulnerability on health.

Keywords: Lifestyles; Health; Macroeconomic conditions; Panel data; Unemployment; The Great recession (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: I1 I12 I14 I18 C33 J10 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1016/j.ehb.2020.100859

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