Health plays a crucial role in California labor market, according to UCSF researchers

September 06, 1999

People who lose jobs often experience a worsening of health by the following year and those with poor health are more likely to lose jobs by the next year, according to results of the second California Work and Health Survey (CWHS) led by UCSF researchers.

"This finding is important because there has been a debate whether health is a cause or consequence of employment problems," said Edward Yelin, PhD, professor of medicine and health policy in the UCSF Institute for Health Policy Studies. "This study shows that it is in fact both."

People who reported health problems in the first year of the survey (1998) were more than twice as likely to lose their jobs in the following year as those who did not report such problems. In addition, those who lost jobs in the12 months prior to the 1998 survey were twice as likely to experience worsened health and onset of disability than those who did not lose their jobs, according to researchers.

The California Work and Health Survey, led by Yelin and co-principal investigator, Laura Trupin, MPH, senior research associate in the UCSF Institute for Health Policy Studies, examines the health impacts of changes in the economy and examines how well people with health problems do economically.

Researchers found that loss of a job, being continuously out of work and experiencing economic deprivation all result in a worsening of health over a one year period. There was no evidence, said researchers, that working long hours, having more than one job, doing physically demanding work, having a short tenure on the job or being in a temporary position, results in a worsening of health or the onset of disability over a one-year period.

The 1999 survey, administered to 2,044 Californians (18 years of age and older), included 913 adults who participated in the first survey in 1998.

Findings of the 1999 survey show that the labor market continues to be strong. More than 70 percent of working age adults are currently employed and, of those who are currently working, three in ten work more than a standard full-time workweek. In addition, 40 percent of workers report receiving a promotion or getting a better job in the past year and 60 percent report an increase in earnings.

The nature of employment in California, according to researchers, is changing. Californians switch jobs frequently and few (33 percent) have "traditional employment." Researchers defined traditional employment as meeting the following criteria: 1) holding a single full-time and full-year job; 2) working the day shift as a permanent employee 3) being paid by the firm at which the work is done; 4) and not working from home or as an independent contractor. Researchers found 22 percent of workers have traditional employment and job tenure of at least three years, and only eight percent have such jobs of at least three years and are the only worker in the household.

Despite a strong labor market, researchers found a substantial proportion of the working age population is falling behind financially. Approximately 13 percent of Californians who are currently employed live in households making less than 125 percent of the federally-defined poverty level. One fifth of the working age population, according to researchers, lost a job in the past three years, and a tenth have lost a job in the last year.

"Despite the tight labor market, rates of job displacement continue to be high and even in good economic times, job loss can have an adverse effect on health," said Trupin.

The California Work and Health Survey is funded by a grant from The California Wellness Foundation (TCWF) through its Work and Health Initiative. TCWF is an independent, private foundation established in 1992. The Foundation's mission is to improve the health of the people of California by providing grants for health promotion, wellness education, and disease prevention.
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University of California - San Francisco

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