Health and Health Care Utilization among the Unemployed

University dissertation from Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Abstract: The number of persons who are not employed has increased in Sweden since the early 1990s. Unemployment has been found to influence health, especially when unemployment rates are low. The extent to which unemployment affects health when unemployment is high is less clear, and this needs to be further studied. To improve health in the population, the health care system should offer equal access to health care according to need. It is important to study whether the employment status hinders the fulfilment of this goal.This thesis is based on four papers: Paper I and II aimed at analysing self-rated health versus mortality risk in relation to employment status, during one period of low unemployment and one period of high unemployment. Paper III and IV assessed the use of medical health care services and unmet care needs among persons who were unemployed or otherwise not employed. The goal was to analyse what health problems lead people to either seek or abstain from seeking care, and what factors encumber or facilitate this process.The overall results indicate that being unemployed or outside the labour force was associated with an excess risk of poor self-rated health, symptoms of depression, mental and physical exhaustion and mortality. The differences in self-rated health between the unemployed and employed were larger when unemployment levels were high, than when they were low. More groups of the unemployed were also afflicted with poor health when unemployment was high. Thus, poor health among the unemployed seems to be a public health problem during high levels of unemployment. Lack of employment was related to abstaining from seeking care, despite perceiving a need for care, and this was related to psychological symptoms. To deal with the needs of the unemployed and others who are outside the labour force it would be useful to develop and implement interventions within the health care system. These should focus on psychological and psychosocial problems. Future research should analyse how to facilitate health-promoting interventions among persons who are not anchored in the labour market.