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HEALTH PLAYS A CRUCIAL ROLE IN CALIFORNIA LABOR MARKET, ACCORDING TO UCSF RESEARCHERS

People who lose jobs often experience a worsening of health by the following
year and those with poor health are more likely to lose jobs by the next year,
according to results of the second California Work and Health Survey (CWHS) led
by UCSF researchers. 

‘This finding is important because there has been a debate whether health is a
cause or consequence of employment problems,” said Edward Yelin, PhD, professor
of medicine and health policy in the UCSF Institute for Health Policy Studies. 
“This study shows that it is in fact both.”

People who reported health problems in the first year of the survey (1998) were
more than twice as likely to lose their jobs in the following year as those who
did not report such problems.  In addition, those who lost jobs in the12 months
prior to the 1998 survey were twice as likely to experience worsened health
and onset of disability than those who did not lose their jobs, according to
researchers.

The California Work and Health Survey, led by Yelin and co-principal
investigator, Laura Trupin, MPH, senior research associate in the UCSF
Institute for Health Policy Studies, examines the health impacts of changes in
the economy and examines how well people with health problems do economically.

Researchers found that loss of a job, being continuously out of work and
experiencing economic deprivation all result in a worsening of health over a
one year period. There was no evidence, said researchers, that working long
hours, having more than one job, doing physically demanding work, having a
short tenure on the job or being in a temporary position, results in a
worsening of health or the onset of disability over a one-year period.

The 1999 survey, administered to 2,044 Californians (18 years of age and
older), included 913 adults who participated in the first survey in 1998. 

Findings of the 1999 survey show that the labor market continues to be strong. 
More than 70 percent of working age adults are currently employed and, of those
who are currently working, three in ten work more than a standard full-time
workweek.  In addition, 40 percent of workers report receiving a promotion or
getting a better job in the past year and 60 percent report an increase in
earnings. 

The nature of employment in California, according to researchers, is changing. 
Californians switch jobs frequently and few (33 percent) have “traditional
employment.”  Researchers defined traditional employment as meeting the
following criteria: 1) holding a single full-time and full-year job; 2) working
the day shift as a permanent employee 3) being paid by the firm at which the
work is done; 4) and not working from home or as an independent contractor. 
Researchers found 22 percent of workers have traditional employment and job
tenure of at least three years, and only eight percent have such jobs of at
least three years and are the only worker in the household.

Despite a strong labor market, researchers found a substantial proportion of
the working age population is falling behind financially.  Approximately 13
percent of Californians who are currently employed live in households making
less than 125 percent of the federally-defined poverty level.  One fifth of the
working age population, according to researchers, lost a job in the past three
years, and a tenth have lost a job in the last year.

“Despite the tight labor market, rates of job displacement continue to be high
and even in good economic times, job loss can have an adverse effect on
health,” said Trupin. 

The California Work and Health Survey is funded by a grant from The California
Wellness Foundation (TCWF) through its Work and Health Initiative.  TCWF is an
independent, private foundation established in 1992.  The Foundation’s mission
is to improve the health of the people of California by providing grants for
health promotion, wellness education, and disease prevention.