Unemployment and Mortality in Scotland: Towards a Causal Explanation
Clemens, T. (2010) Annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers, Washington D.C., US, 14 - 18 April 2010 [SLS]
Given the current recession and increased rates of unemployment, a greater understanding of the potential impact that prolonged spells of unemployment may have on various health outcomes and mortality is essential. To date, despite strong statistical associations between worklessness and subsequent mortality, many studies have stopped short of ascribing a causal explanation through which worklessness may increase mortality risk. Instead, alternative explanations to this association have been offered and emanate predominantly from the idea of health-related selection whereby individuals with poorer general health will be on average more likely to be out of work than those individuals in better health. It is often very difficult to tease out these different influences in non-experimental observational settings. Some studies, particularly those making use of natural experiment scenarios, have found little evidence of independent causal effects of unemployment on mortality. For example, one group of studies have suggested that the mortality risk of unemployment is lowered during periods of higher overall unemployment reasoning that during these periods health selective unemployment would be much less likely.
Using the Scottish Longitudinal Study (SLS) which incorporates extensive information on prior health and subsequent mortality we use causal modelling techniques to study two aims; firstly to identify evidence of a causal relationship between unemployment and mortality and secondly to investigate this relationship spatially. Given that the relationship has been shown to differ temporally we ask whether it may also differ between areas of higher and lower unemployment within Scotland.