Long-term unemployed pack on the pounds

(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green) (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

Even as the global economy continues to right itself, persistent long-term unemployment for some former U.S. workers represents one clear hangover from the recession. According to a 2013 Gallup-Healthways poll, these unemployed citizens are increasingly experiencing negative health conditions.

Gallup-Healthways interviewed 18,000 long- and short-term unemployed U.S. residents, and just released the results. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics defines long-term unemployment as 27 weeks or more without working; short term is less than 27 weeks.

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The results show that obesity, high cholesterol and high blood pressure occur much more frequently among those in the long-term unemployment category than the short-term.

“Americans who have been out of work for a year or more are much more likely to be obese than those unemployed for a shorter time. The obesity rate rises from 22.8 percent among those unemployed for two weeks or less to 32.7 percent among those unemployed for 52 weeks or more,” Gallup -Healthways said in a release.

Asked about high blood pressure, 23.6 percent of the long term unemployed said they had it; 13.2 percent of the short-termers self-identified as experiencing high blood pressure. When asked about cholesterol, nearly twice as many long-termers had it (15 percent) as short-termers (8 percent).

Gallup-Healthways said these results may be one reason so many Americans have been unemployed for 27 weeks or more.

“One key concern raised by the current analysis is that employers in industries that require manual labor, such as manufacturing and construction, may be less likely to hire candidates who are clearly out of shape. If so, workers in these industries -- who already earn lower wages, on average, than those in knowledge-based sectors -- may be even more likely to be caught in a negative cycle of joblessness and poor health.

“More broadly, private employers' high health-care costs might lead them to avoid taking chances on those who pose greater health risks, particularly in a tenuous economic climate. As a result, [long-term unemployed job] candidates who are obese … may have two strikes against them even before they sit down for an interview.”

The surveyors said they could offer no explanation for the “strong relationship between unemployment and obesity-related health concerns.” They suggested that perhaps long-term unemployment could cause “some people to engage in behaviors that lead to health problems, while pre-existing health conditions may make it harder for others to find and keep work.”

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