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Regional employment and individual worklessness during the Great Recession and the health of the working-age population: cross-national analysis of 16 European countries

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    Rights statement: © 2019 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license

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Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Science & Medicine
Early online date25 Jun 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Jun 2019


Studies from single countries suggest that local labour market conditions, including rates of employment, tend to be associated with the health of the populations residing in those areas, even after adjustment for individual characteristics including employment status. The aim of this study is to strengthen the cross-national evidence base on the influence of regional employment levels and individual worklessness on health during the period of the Great Recession. We investigate whether higher regional employment levels are associated with better health over and above individual level employment. Individual level data (N = 23,078 aged 15–64 years) were taken from 16 countries (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and United Kingdom) participating in the 2014 European Social Survey. Regional employment rates were extracted from Eurostat, corresponding with the start (2008) and end (2013) of the Great Recession. Health outcomes included self-reported heart or circulation problems, high blood pressure, diabetes, self-rated health, depression, obesity and allergies (as a falsification test). We calculated multilevel Poisson regression models, which included individuals nested within regions, controlling for potential confounding variables and country fixed effects. After adjustment for individual level socio-demographic factors, higher average regional employment rates (from 2008 to 2013) were associated with better health outcomes. Individual level worklessness was associated with worsened health outcomes, most strongly with poor self-rated health. In models including both individual worklessness and the average regional employment rate, regional employment remained associated with heart and circulation problems, depression and obesity. There was evidence of an interaction between individual worklessness and regional employment for poor self-rated health and depression. The findings suggest that across 16 European countries, for some key outcomes, higher levels of employment in the regional labour market may be beneficial for the health of the local population.

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