Professor Eran Shor of McGill University, in collaboration with researchers from Stony Brook University in New York, examined existing research involving 20 million people in 15, mainly western, countries, over the last 40 years. They found joblessness increased the risk of premature death by 63 percent.
The study, published in the journal Social Science & Medicine, found unemployment increased men's mortality by 78 percent and women's mortality by 37 percent -- especially for those age 50 and under.
"Until now, one of the big questions in the literature has been about whether pre-existing health conditions, such as diabetes or heart problems, or behaviors such as smoking, drinking or drug use, lead to both unemployment and a greater risk of death," Shor said in a statement.
"What's interesting about our work is that we found that pre-existing health conditions had no effect, suggesting that the unemployment-mortality relationship is quite likely a causal one. This probably has to do with unemployment causing stress and negatively affecting one's socioeconomic status, which in turn leads to poorer health and higher mortality rates."