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Key points

  • Unemployed people are more than five times as likely to have poor health than employees.
  • Only 33% of unemployed people report their health as either very good or excellent, compared to 48% of people in employment.

This chart shows people’s health grouped by their employment status in 2019/2020. The health was rated on a scale with answers ranging from ‘poor’ to ‘excellent’. Self-rated health – where people are asked to assess their overall health – is a good indicator for health outcomes generally.

Unemployed people have the worst health of all groups, other than disabled people and people with a long-term sickness. Unemployed people are five times more likely to report poor health than employees: 10.2% compared to 1.9%. Working-age (16-64) unemployed people are also more likely to report poor health than retired people, at 10.2% compared to 7.4%.

Only 33.4% of unemployed people report their health as either very good or excellent, compared to 47.7% of employees.

Full-time students report the best overall health, followed closely by employees. There are no notable differences in self-reported health of employees and self-employed people.

There is a strong link between unemployment and ill health. The relationship between the two might run in both directions – as cause and consequence – but it is likely that policies to combat unemployment would also improve general health.

  • Health is rated as either ‘poor’, ‘fair’, ‘good’, ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’.

Source: University of Essex, Understanding Society: The UK Household Longitudinal Study

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