Effects of short- and long-term unemployment on physical work capacity and on serum cortisol
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Aim: To investigate whether a decrease in physical working capacity occurs during the first year of unemployment and if this is accompanied by a deterioration in mental health. Methods: In a longitudinal study, 71 unemployed individuals were investigated for 1, 6 months and 1 year after becoming unemployed. An additional 102 individuals who have been unemployed for more than 1 year were included in the cross-sectional part of the study. Possible decrease of physical working capacity was tested by bicycle ergometry. Psycho-emotional stress was tested by serum cortisol concentrations and by the Giessen symptom questionnaire. Results: In short-term unemployed (STU) individuals, a significant decrease (P=0.001) of physical working capacity (16.3%) and a significant increase (P=0.004) of cortisol levels (17.6 μg/dl) was found. The Giessen symptom questionnaire score showed an increased emotional disturbance (P=0.035) during unemployment. The comparison of long-term unemployed and STU revealed a significant decrease (P=0.012) in physical working capacity (18.2%), a significant increase in cortisol levels (P=0.001) and a significant worsening of the Giessen symptom questionnaire score (P=0.001). Conclusion: Unemployment has a negative effect on physical working capacity and mental health, depending on the duration of unemployment. Factors that facilitate or impede physical and mental health during unemployment should be identified in future studies.
KeywordsUnemployment Physical working capacity Cortisol Giessen questionnaire score
The authors gratefully acknowledge helpful suggestions of Alexander Pilger.
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