Losing Jobs and Lighting Up: Employment Experiences and Smoking in the Great Recession

Shelley Golden, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Krista Perreira, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The Great Recession produced high rates of unemployment, in part due to high rates of people losing work involuntarily. The impact of these job losses on health is unknown, due to long disease development timeframes, concerns about reverse causation, and limited data from this time. We examine associations between job loss, employment status and smoking, the leading preventable cause of death, among participants in the 2001-2011 waves of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics. Results indicate that recent involuntary job loss is associated with an average 1.2 percentage point increase in smoking probability. This risk is strongest when people have returned to work, and appears reversed when they leave the labor market altogether. We find no evidence that changes in household income or psychological distress levels explain smoking behavior modifications. Smoking prevention programs targeted at displaced or newly hired workers may offset some health risks produced by the Great Recession.

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 Presented in Session P5. Adult Health and Mortality