Unemployment has long been associated with a significantly increased risk of death in general, particularly for low-skilled workers in the U.S.. The risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S. at almost 650,000 deaths per year, has been shown to increase by 15–30 percent in men unemployed for more than 90 days. Among older workers, involuntary job loss can more than double the risk of stroke, which already claims 150,000 lives in the U.S. per year, as well as increase the likelihood of depressive symptoms that then persist for years. Such harms are likely exacerbated by concomitant longer term social isolation, which in of itself is associated with a 30 percent increase in mortality risk. Loneliness and social isolation have been associated with a 29 percent increase in risk of incident coronary heart disease and a 32 percent increase in risk of stroke. The scale of these elevated health risks is significant—comparable to that caused by taking up light smoking or becoming obese.
The loss of earnings associated with being on a recessionary economic curve upon graduation also leads to adverse and lasting health outcomes. Graduating in a recession is associated with roughly a 6 percent increase in that cohort’s mortality rate, adjusting for age. A 1 percent increase in state unemployment level when first entering the job market has been associated with a 6.7 percent increase in depressive symptoms among men by age 40.