Does education protect against the detrimental effect of unemployment? Male mortality Belgium 2001-2011

Sylvie Gadeyne, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Christophe Vanroelen, Vrije Universiteit Brussel

In Belgium, as in other European countries, unemployment rates have become perpetual phenomena affecting vast numbers of working-aged people. Long-term unemployment has become more common and increasingly affects the higher educated and the ethnic minorities. The aim of this study is to assess the effects of unemployment on (cause-specific) mortality in men. Analyses are based on exhaustive population-wide data, consisting of a linkage between the 2001 Belgian census and register data on mortality between 2001-2011. To estimate the impact of unemployment on overall and cause-specific mortality, Cox regressions were used among men aged 30-59 in good health at baseline. The regressions clearly show the detrimental effect of unemployment. This harmful effect cannot be explained by education or material living standards. A cross-classification of employment status and education reveals that higher educated are slightly protected against the detrimental effects of unemployment than lower educated. This protective effect varies by ethnicity, being less pronounced among Turkish and Moroccan communities in Belgium. Employed men however have a lower mortality rate compared to unemployed men, independently of their educational level. Cause-specific analyses reveal a mortality excess for all causes of death, but especially for alcohol related mortality. Unemployment clearly has negative health consequences. In this respect, it is crucial to install policies that assure employment in all population groups. Education does protect against these detrimental effects of unemployment, but not in the same way across ethnic communities in Belgium. Specific measures and policies should address the specific problems faced by the lower educated people in society and the Turkish and Moroccan communities in Belgium.

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Presented in Session 2: Mortality and longevity