Unemployed people were three times more likely to die in the decade between 2001 and 2011 than business professionals and teachers, a study has found. The research, conducted by the University of Glasgow, highlights how our occupations increase or decrease chances of an untimely death. It is the first of its kind in 40 years.
Published in the Lancet Public Health on 24 October, it looked at national censuses and death records from 1991 to 2001 as well as mortality data up to 2011. They analysed adults between 20 and 59-years-old. It differentiates between male and female workers as well.
During the 4.5 million person-per-year follow-ups, the study found that men working as health and business professionals, managers and teachers had the lowest mortality rates in the UK. However, people that worked in construction or factories experienced a mortality rate three times bigger.
The same study found that women working in the culture or media industry, and business or teaching are far less likely to die than women working in construction, garment trade or housekeeping.
Although some groups have experienced a fall in their respective mortality rates in the past 20 years, some have seen the rate increase. The increased mortality affects low-skilled workers the most. However, the unemployed fared the worst in the study, with a mortality rate of 3% for men and 0.7% for women.
Further research is needed to fully understand the causes of the respective rates as defined by profession. But it underlines the risks of precarious employment, and "the need to improve working conditions in very specific groups. The study states that trends in the job market, such as zero-hours contracts can affect our well-being and health inequalities between different types of workers.
The Trades Union Congress general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "There's a clear pattern of lower paid, and lower skilled workers being left at greater risk by their employers. But it doesn't have to be this way. With proper risk management, and employers working in close cooperation with trade union safety reps, there is no reason for any group of workers to have lower life expectancy than others."
The lead author of the study, Dr Vittal Katikireddi told the BBC: "Our study has particular relevance to policymakers in Scotland as there has been considerable concern that health outcomes in Scotland are poorer than elsewhere in Western Europe."
"Addressing Scotland's 'sick man of Europe' status requires paying particular attention to improving health among people working in low-skilled jobs and who are unemployed," he added.