Losing your job (and getting it back) should also be a public health concern. There is evidence that changing your job, losing it or changing your home significantly affects your health
The fact that some people enjoy better health than others does not only depend on the medical treatment they receive when they get sick. Many of the situations that we go through throughout our lives affect our well-being at all levels, in many cases without us realizing it. It is what those of us who work in the field of Public Health know as “social determinants of health”.
Many of these characteristics are not fixed but dynamic, as is the case with employment or place of residence. And that means that the decisions we make, or life circumstances (sometimes without room for maneuver) can change health for better or worse.
Losing your job (and getting it back) is also part of public health
There are multiple epidemiological studies linking employment to health. A job, especially when it is not in precarious conditions, provides financial resources with which we can purchase products related to health (better nutrition, better quality housing, etc.). In addition, the stress of job loss and not making ends meet not only worsen mental health: the physiological mechanisms of stress worsen physical health in the long run.
Without going any further, a study carried out in the Netherlands in 2011 followed 1,829 unemployed people, and after 6 months it verified how the physical health of people who had regained a job compared to people who remained unemployed. What they found was that people who had returned to work improved their physical function and even had less pain overall.
This does not mean that any job will improve health, because precarious jobs are also associated with poorer health. Another study carried out in the Basque Country revealed that people in a precarious employment situation are 3 times more likely to have poor health.
Therefore, to improve population health, public health must advocate for better working conditions and guarantee the economic conditions that provide employment to the entire population.
Removals: beyond the stress of packing our things
The home in which we live protects us and cares for the health of those who inhabit it. And the housing market means that the number of times we move houses is increasing, so the quality of our homes also varies over time.
At the same time, the neighborhood in which we live (or even the city) largely determines our health: the ease with which we access healthy food, the possibilities we have of doing physical activity, the means of transport we have access to... They are all elements that determine our health. But what happens then if we move to a different neighborhood?
Recently, a study was published that verified, through electronic medical records, what happened to more than 21,000 residents in the United States who had moved, comparing changes in body weight according to the type of neighborhood they moved to. . What they found, and what you can see in the first panels of Figure 2, is that people who moved from a high population density neighborhood to a low population density neighborhood gained more weight within 3 years of moving. .
Everything indicates that it is due to the fact that neighborhoods with a low population density have, in general, less availability of local shops and a public transport network, so they are places with more dependence on the car. Consequently, this causes people to gain time after changing their address.
These results are especially important due to very common phenomena lately, such as the gentrification of rehabilitated neighborhoods. The original settlers are displaced from their home to other dwellings, neighborhoods or cities. And this may entail a significant (and overlooked) risk to the public health of these people in the medium and long term.
Taking into account social phenomena, such as changes in employment and housing that affect our individual, family and entire population health, is key to achieving the highest levels of health and well-being.
This article has been published inThe Conversation.