Men's health suffers more from unemployment - Business Works
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Men's health suffers more from unemployment

by Jenny Gulliford, The Work Foundation While the harmful effects of unemployment can be felt by both genders, there is evidence to suggest that men are overall more likely to suffer adverse health consequences than women, especially in the short-term, says Jenny Gulliford, policy and research officer at The Work Foundation.

With poor health often a barrier to returning to work, the government needs to take action if it wants to improve job outcomes. Worryingly, despite potential capacity in the Work Programme, it seems there is a lack of specialist support to either prevent poor health or to support jobseekers with pre-existing long-term conditions or disability. A more innovative approach to tackling the health of unemployed men, including taking action at an earlier stage and a joined-up approach from Jobcentres and other agencies, must be taken to improve both the health and employment outcomes for men.

In our new report produced with the charity Men's Health Forum, Sick of Being Unemployed: The health issues of out of work men and how support services are failing to address them sets out the effect of unemployment on men highlighting that:

  • men are nearly twice as likely to have mental health problems due to being unemployed than women;

  • 800 extra male and 155 female suicides between 2008-2010 were linked to the recession above the trend, which had been decreasing;

  • unemployed men actively seeking work have a 20% greater risk of death than employed men.

The report, launched to coincide with Men's Health Week (9-14 June 2014), shows that unemployed men, particularly those with previously unstable work and with a lower socio economic status, have a higher risk of developing poor health as a result of being unemployed than other groups.

Case study

With the right resources and initiative, employment support can be made available through health services. Between 2001 and 2011 Tomorrow’s People, a specialist employment charity focusing on supporting the hardest to help back to work, and the James Wigg Health Centre, based in Camden (north London), took an innovative approach to providing integrated health and unemployment support. The idea was simple; the health centre agreed to have an employment advisor situated within the practice. The Employment Advisor quickly became integrated within the Surgery’s team, receiving referrals from both GPs within the centre and the reception staff.

Support was one-to-one and informal, with a focus on building the individual's selfconfidence, which was considered as important as employment-related activities. The sessions lasted around an hour and were held once a week, with participants receiving 'homework' to do in their spare time. Tomorrow's People described the service as taking a 'softly' approach to encouraging people to return to work. They believed that the service was trusted due to its independent status and not being tied to any form of welfare benefit, and by being situated within a GP service.

The results from the study were positive, both in helping people return to work and in terms of health outcomes. An evaluation of the first four years of the project found that people who had been referred to the service had lower average monthly GP consultation rates, as well as lower referrals rates to in-house counselling. The number of antidepressants prescribed to those who received support fell markedly after registration to the service.

employment outcomes were positive

The employment outcomes were positive, with 87% entering employment, a volunteer or training placement, or some form of education. Of this group 36% entered a job, while 54% took on a voluntary or training placement.

Overall, Tomorrow's People estimated that the service resulted in a social and economic return on investment of between £40,270 - £73,870. This was as a result of reduced GP consultation, lower prescription rates, savings from people moving off out of work benefits and increased tax revenue as a result of people entering into employment. Considering the project cost £33,503 over 39 months, this was a significant rate of return.

Martin Tod, Chief Executive of the Men's Health Forum, said, "We knew ill people were more likely to be unemployed - now our new report shows that being unemployed makes men sick. Of course, unemployment doesn't just affect men, but the effect on health appears to be much greater amongst men than amongst women. The government must look at how ill-health in unemployed men could be prevented. Local councils must work in partnership with Jobcentres, health care providers and charities to tackle the toll of unemployment on men."

Men can find more information on work, health and stress on the Men's Health Forum's website at

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