267507 How do workers' modifiable health risks respond to the health of their industry?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012 : 12:45 PM - 1:00 PM

Brian Gifford, PhD , Integrated Benefits Institute, San Francisco, CA
Background: Several recent media reports cite studies claiming that recessions are good for individuals' health, in that reduced discretionary wages encourage reductions in unhealthy habits such as smoking and eating out, while unemployment and underemployment allows more time for physical activity. While this may be generally true for the population as a whole, it may be less true for employees in high unemployment or low growth industries, who may face increased job stress and more work hours. This work assesses the relationship between macroeconomic indicators and modifiable health risks.

Method: We apply regression methods to data from the National Health Interview Survey in order to predict incidence rates of smoking, low physical activity, alcoholic beverage consumption, and body mass index (BMI) as a function of their industry's unemployment rate in the quarter within which they were interviewed and their industry's one year average wage growth.

Results: Preliminary results (using 2006-2008 data) indicate that as industry unemployment increases, workers show an increased likelihood of smoking and consuming alcoholic beverages, and a decreased likelihood of engaging in physical activity. Wage growth is associated with declines in smoking and increases in exercise. Additional analyses will update the data through 2010 and explore mixed level models.

Conclusion: There is little preliminary evidence that uncertain economic environments encourage workers to adopt healthier habits, and some preliminary evidence that downturns contribute to workers' modifiable health risks.

Learning Areas:
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
To assess the relationship between macroeconomic indicators and modifiable health risks. To discuss mechanisms by which uncertain economic environments can contribute to risky health behaviors.

Keywords: Occupational Health, Behavior Modification

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I was a post-doctoral fellow in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Scholars in Health Policy Research Program at UCSF/UC Berkeley, and have worked in the field of workplace health for almost four years. I have authored or co-authored several peer-reviewed sociological studies including recent work on the policy spillover between the demand for health programs (Medicaid) and the criminal justice system.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.

Back to: 4210.0: Occupational Epidemiology