Unemployment May Be Associated With Increased Heart Attack Risk

Unemployment status, multiple job losses and short periods without work may be associated with increased heart attack risk, according to an article published on Nov. 19 in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Using the Health and Retirement Study, a prospective cohort study, the study authors looked at 13,451 U.S. adults ages 51 to 75 years. Multivariate models showed that acute myocardial infarction (AMI) risks were significantly higher among the unemployed (hazard ratio, 1.35 [95 percent CI, 1.10-1.66]) and that risks increased incrementally from one job loss (1.22 [1.04-1.42]) to four or more cumulative job losses (1.63 [1.29-2.07]) compared with no job loss. Additionally, risks for AMI were particularly elevated within the first year of unemployment (hazard ratio, 1.27 [95 percent CI, 1.01-1.60]).

The authors note that their study is the first to examine "the cumulative effect of multiple dimensions of unemployment on the risks for AMI." They conclude that their results demonstrated that several features of one's past and present employment increased risks for a cardiovascular event, and although the risks for AMI were most significant in the first year after job loss, unemployment status, cumulative number of job losses, and cumulative time unemployed were each independently associated with increased risk for AMI, add the authors.

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In a related editorial comment, William T. Gallo, PhD, noted that moving forward, "the next generation of studies should identify reasonable pathways from job separation to illness so that nonoccupational interventions may be developed and targeted to the most vulnerable individuals."

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