Academic journal article Monthly Labor Review

Does Unemployment Lead to Better Health?

Academic journal article Monthly Labor Review

Does Unemployment Lead to Better Health?

Article excerpt

Previous studies on the effects of unemployment on health show that people exercise more during spells of unemployment. This finding has led some researchers to conclude that the unemployed, on average, experience improved health. However, these studies did not account for a reduction in an individual's total physical activity due to decreases in physical activity at work. In their working paper titled "Exercise, Physical Activity, and Exertion over the Business Cycle" (National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper 17406, September 2011), researchers Gregory J. Colman and Dhaval M. Dave attempt to determine how changes in employment affect an individual's total level of physical activity.

The researchers applied American Time Use Survey data from 2003 to 2010 to a model they constructed to determine how much time individuals spent working, exercising, and engaging in other activities. The researchers converted the time spent on each activity into a measure of both duration and intensity by calculating each activity's MET--that is, Metabolic Equivalent of Task, which measures the intensity of aerobic exercise.

Colman and Dave found that, on average, the increased time spent by the unemployed in recreational exercise is outweighed by the loss of the physical activity that had taken place on the job. …

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