Recession Shortens Lifespans Of Older Workers Who Lose Their Jobs

older workers health

Despite a slight drop in the unemployment rate among older workers last month, many are finding that it still takes a long time to find work after being laid off. The length of joblessness among workers 55 and older rose to 52.7 weeks in August, much higher than the 36.1 weeks for younger workers, the Labor Department reported earlier this month.

What's more, workers in their late 50s and early 60s who experience job loss during a recession are likely to find that their health suffers, says a new study by researchers at Wellesley College.

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Older workers who become unemployed amid an economic downturn in some cases may see their life expectancy cut by as much as three years, according to the study, "Recessions, Older Workers and Longevity: How Long Are Recessions Good For Your Health?"

Other findings from the study showed:

  • A labor market downturn results in a 10 percent increase in the number of older workers who won't survive through age 79.
  • The negative effects of job loss, lost income, and loss of health coverage and access to health care are long lasting, and likely contribute to reduced life expectancy.

Still, the study did find a silver lining. Social Security and Medicare benefits can help stem the negative effects:

  • Workers who've already hit age 62, and thus are eligible for Social Security, aren't affected, presumably because of the safety net provided by that benefit.
  • Medicare also helps because any loss or reduction in health insurance associated with losing a job is eliminated at age 65, when seniors become eligible for Medicare.

Out-of-work seniors who derive some assurance from knowing that they can apply for Social Security benefits as early as age 62 could see that sense of security farther from reach should Mitt Romney become president. The Republican candidate has proposed incrementally raising the age at which seniors can apply for benefits as a way to reduce costs and extend the life of the program.

When it comes to Medicare, it isn't clear whether the Affordable Care Act, signed into law by President Obama two years ago, or a proposal put forth by Romney's running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan, to turn Medicare into a voucher program will affect out-of-work seniors' feelings about the program.

As the Los Angeles Times reports, both Obama and Romney seek major changes to Medicare to rein in runaway costs, which threaten to consume 20 percent of federal revenues by 2022. But only time will tell if such changes would affect older workers' confidence in the plan.

More: How To Get A Job If You're Over 50

Though August's employment data showed a slight improvement in older workers' ability to find jobs, a separate report released last month by the Labor Department revealed the devastating effects that the Great Recession has had on older workers.

Of the 2.5 million workers aged 55 to 64 who became unemployed in 2009 through 2011, slightly less than half were working again in January, according to the agency's latest worker displacement survey.

Nearly 13 million Americans were displaced from their jobs during the three-year period that started in 2009, The Huffington Post reports, citing data from the AARP Public Policy Institute.

Older workers accounted for 20 percent of displaced workers but comprised just 15 percent of those who became re-employed. Moreover, AARP's data showed that less than a quarter of those aged 65 and up who lost their jobs found jobs by January, while 61 percent of laid-off workers aged 25 to 54 had found new jobs in that time.

Institute spokesman Sara Rix said the data were troubling, noting that older workers who can't find work are much more likely than their younger counterparts to simply drop out of the labor force.

"Coupled with rising health care costs, a volatile stock market, and the sharp decline in housing values in recent years," Rix told The Huffington Post, "these developments point to a precarious financial situation for older Americans."




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David Schepp

Staff Writer

David Schepp has spent more than a dozen years covering business news for the electronic and print media, including Dow Jones Newswires, BBC News, Gannett Co., and most recently at AOL's DailyFinance. Nearly 10 years ago, he started writing a weekly People@Work column, looking in depth at issues facing workers in today's workplace. The syndicated column appeared in newspapers and websites nationwide before it made its debut on DailyFinance in 2010. Schepp now continues that tradition at Aol Jobs, covering the jobs beat and providing readers insight and analysis into the nation's challenging employment scene.

Schepp holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from Metropolitan State College of Denver.

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48 Comments

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Bob San

If American corporations had ethics we would all still be employed.

January 13 2013 at 12:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
invmartyc

That is all right with the GOP, they would rather the old people die and reduce the surplus population!

Shoot from the lip Romney/Lying Ryan GOP Circus 2012

Romney 1040

September 17 2012 at 12:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
tidavis58

These days, an employee of a firm who is fortunate to have several years with the same company, @ 25 - 30 years is now feeling the pressures of the younger generation coming in ans ultimately threatening the jobs of the older workers. I have a good friend who is now being pressured to give up his position so a younger employee can take it over. The younger employee has figured out the way to make things happen is to become very good friends with the management. As a result, everyone can see the leverage it is having. Questions suddenly are being asked of the older workers as to when they are thinking of retirement, ect. and this is causing angst amoungst the older workers worried about the ulterior motives involved. Older workers lucky to have a job these days have to be on constant guard and more wary of the tactics of the young who are anxious to see them pushed to the curbs.

September 17 2012 at 11:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
azmoyle

The way I understand it, Romney has a phased in plan so those of us approaching 62 should not be affected by proposed Social Security benefit delays So tired of Huffy Post being so biased!
.

September 17 2012 at 11:49 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Henry

Hey folks, Grover Norquist wants all those close to the retirement age and those retired to DIE! You see when the Teapublicans get control in Jan 2013 they will give him and the rest of the already Rich the money from Social Security and Medicare and Medical and all the other "Socialist" programs so the more people they kill off, the more money they have for themselves. If you remember your history, one of the first things the Nazis did was get rid of the old, infirm, disabled, and those deemed unfit to be Aryan Masters of the World. Beginning to sound familiar? Save your country, Vote Progressive!

September 17 2012 at 11:46 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
MERLIN

its been made very plain, if you are over 50 you no longer exist and you should go off and die

September 17 2012 at 11:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jia550

to much automation and high tech all contributing to reduced labor force.

September 17 2012 at 11:04 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
k76640

what about these road contractors thay wont hire older workers but hire nonwhites to do our jobs even when we are more qualified and the money they pay us would stay here in the U.S.A.

September 17 2012 at 10:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ectullis

I had an excellent part time job until July. Was replaced by a younger man. I'm 67.

September 17 2012 at 10:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
janka51

yes and the last 4 yrs. has made it worse

September 17 2012 at 10:06 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to janka51's comment
ectullis

Much much worse.

September 17 2012 at 10:11 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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