HEALFAM: The effects of unemployment on health of family members
Previous research has investigated the relationship between unemployment and health from a perspective of an isolated individual. HEALFAM takes a novel approach and examines how transition to unemployment triggers diffusion of ill mental and physical health within families.
The purpose of this study is to provide systematic evidence on the diffusion of the health effects of unemployment among family members. It investigates how becoming unemployed affects health outcomes of partners, children and elderly parents of the unemployed and whether the magnitudes of these influences differ across families and societies. Thus, instead of viewing the unemployed as functioning in isolation, HEALFAM assesses the consequences of unemployment for family members taking a multi-actor perspective and international comparative approach.
Growing volatility of labour markets in Europe has raised concerns about the consequences of unemployment for population health. Losing a job carries social stigma, undermines social status and personal identity, lowers self-esteem and brings stress and anxiety, which leads to poorer mental and physical health. While a large body of research documents the association between unemployment and health, this relationship has been so far investigated from an individual perspective. Previous research has only been concerned with how losing a job affects health of the very person who experienced this loss and paid little attention to the possible influences in such person's social environment, especially within families of the unemployed. The aim of HEALFAM is to examine how becoming unemployed affects health outcomes of partners, children and elderly parents of the unemployed. HEALFAM also bring evidence on how the magnitudes of these influences differ across families and societies.
By combining insights from social stratification literature, family sociology, demography and epidemiology as well as human geography, HEALFAM looks at the consequences of unemployment from a novel, multi-actor perspective. As human life unfolds over time, people are exposed to multiple influences not only due to their own experiences but also due to the events that take place in the life courses of significant others. The project provides new knowledge about these dynamic exposures and social forces that affect their magnitude.
Guided by the life course theoretical framework, which views health and well-being as a process rather than a state and calls for considering interrelatedness of individuals, HEALFAM employs longitudinal data that provide information about multiple members of families. It draws on high quality register and panel survey data as well as the expertise at the interdisciplinary research centres connected to Umeå University. Through international collaborations, it brings together experts in multiple disciplines carrying out research taking a life course perspective.