19 June 2015

Labour market epidemiology – the unequal employment consequences of long term illness

The employment rate among citizens with long term illness varies considerably between countries and over time, and shows particularly strong variation among low educated. Many European countries are concerned with a growing number of the elderly workforce leaving employment in spite of an overall improvement of health and functional ability in those age groups. Other paradoxical findings is the declining employment rate among low educated long term during periods of deregulations of labour market e.g. in UK during the 1980s.

The section of Social Medicine is involved in several national and international comparative studies aiming at understanding the differential impact of labour market policies on persons with mental and somatic long term illness. Recent studies are dealing with the fact that the employment rates in working ages in Denmark has surprisingly constant last 30 years.

In spite of several economic and educational efforts the number out of work on social benefits is unchanged around 800.000. It turns out that one of the explanations is declining health conditions in this group, particularly mental health among those on means tested benefits. Studies are based on register data covering the Danish population 1980-2015, similar register data from the other Scandinavian countries and Survey data incl the European SILC and SHARE data. 

Contact: Karsten Thielen, Ingelise Andersen, Finn Diderichsen

Selected publications

Nabe-Nielsen K, Thielen K, Nygaard E, Thorsen SV, Diderichsen F. Demand-specific work ability, poor health and working conditions in middle-aged full-time employees. Applied Ergonomics. 2014 mar 11;45(4):1174–1180.

Andersen I, Kolodziejczyk C, Thielen K, Heinesen E, Diderichsen F. The effect of breast cancer on personal income three years after diagnosis by cancer stage and education: a register-based cohort study among Danish females. BMC public health. 2015 jan 31;15(1):50.

Thielen K, Nygaard E, Andersen I, Diderichsen F. Employment consequences of depressive symptoms and work demands individually and combined. European Journal of Public Health. 2013;24(1):34-39.

Clayton S, Barr B, Nylen L, Burström B, Thielen K, Diderichsen F et al. Effectiveness of return-to-work interventions for disabled people: a systematic review of government initiatives focused on changing the behaviour of employers. European Journal of Public Health. 2012;22(3):434-439.

Holland P, Burström B, Whitehead M, Diderichsen F, Dahl E, Barr B et al. How do macro-level contexts and policies affect the employment chances of chronically ill and disabled people? Part I -II: The impact of recession and deindustrialization. International Journal of Health Services. 2011 jan 1;41(3):395-430.