Employment and unemployment
Unemployment has consistently been found to have a negative impact on a range of health outcomes

5.1 years
is the average increase in male healthy life expectancy for every 10 percentage points higher the employment rate in an area.
2.9%
of adults are unemployed and 5.2% are underemployed.
1.5 million
adults are unemployed for the first time since 2016.
3.8 million
employees were furloughed in December 2020, down from a peak of 8.9 million in April.

Unemployment is defined as wanting but lacking paid employment, and is normally measured by whether a person is actively seeking and available for work. Unemployment has consistently been found to have a negative impact on a range of health outcomes. Reviews have found links between unemployment and self-rated health, with worse effects for men and those unemployed due to health, and ameliorated by strong social networks. There are similar relationships with mental health, including depression, anxiety and self-esteem. 

After reaching record lows in 2019, the share of adults who are unemployed or underemployed is rising again because of the pandemic. 

These charts explore the relationship between employment and health, as well as trends and inequalities in employment.

Relationship between employment and health

Analysis

Relationship between employment and health

Analysis

Higher healthy life expectancy is strongly correlated with higher employment rates, particularly for...

Analysis

How employment status affects our health

Analysis

Unemployed people are more than five times as likely to have poor health than employees.

Trends and inequalities in employment

Analysis

Trends in unemployment and underemployment

Analysis

After reaching record lows in 2019, the share of adults who are unemployed or underemployed...

Analysis

Inequalities in unemployment

Analysis

There were falls in unemployment between 2014/15 and 2019/20 for all age groups and ethnic groups,...

Analysis

Trends in unemployment and long-term unemployment

Analysis

Unemployment rose from 2019 to 2020 following the pandemic restrictions and remained at the...

Analysis

Trends in employment and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Analysis

The decrease in the number of employees on payroll has been minimal compared with the fall in the...

Explore other subtopics within Work
Job quality
This relates to a range of factors, including pay, security, autonomy and satisfaction
Job security
This relates to confidence in the continued existence of a job or hours of work

Explore the topics

Health inequalities

Money and resources

Work

Housing

alt=""

Transport

Neighbourhoods and surroundings

Coming soon

Family, friends and community

Coming soon

This is part of Evidence hub: What drives health inequalities?

Data, insights and analysis exploring how the circumstances in which we live shape our health
Kjell-bubble-diagramArtboard 101 copy

Get social

Better use of tech and data offers significant potential to drive faster improvement in health and care. Will the G… https://t.co/y10GKFdvaU

Follow us on Twitter
Kjell-bubble-diagramArtboard 101

Work with us

We look for talented and passionate individuals as everyone at the Health Foundation has an important role to play.

View current vacancies
Artboard 101 copy 2

The Q community

Q is an initiative connecting people with improvement expertise across the UK.

Find out more