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Member Research and Reports

Rutgers Study Examines How Unemployment Impacts Smoking Behavior

Rutgers School of Public Health study finds that the effect of unemployment on smoking is complex and depends on the duration of unemployment as well as gender. Over the past 50 years, cigarette smoking has declined significantly, but still imposes various burdens on smokers and society, including billions in medical care costs. Smoking in particular is sensitive to psychological stressors like divorce or job-related stress. Previous studies have shown that the relationship between unemployment and smoking is complex, but they have not addressed unemployment duration, intra-family effects, and actual unemployment versus perceived unemployment.

The study, conducted by Dr. Irina Grafova, assistant professor of health systems and policy, and Dr. Alan Monheit, professor and chair of the department of health systems and policy at Rutgers, used data from the 1999-2011 Panel Study of Income Dynamics. They found that among men, becoming unemployed initially has a favorable impact on smoking behavior, including a decreased likelihood of a smoking relapse and decreased cigarette consumption. However among men who are unemployed long term, some of these favorable effects dissipate. Among women, the researchers found that becoming unemployed initially has a small impact on quitting smoking. However, being unemployed long term decreases a woman’s likelihood of quitting smoking. The perceived risk of unemployment has very little impact on men but affects women’s smoking behavior. Results also indicate that women experiencing an increase in their state’s unemployment rate are more likely to quit smoking.


[Photo: Dr. Irina Grafova]

“The study demonstrates that the impact of long term unemployment on families has consequences beyond economic distress. In particular, long term unemployment can lead to harmful health behaviors such as smoking, and this effect appears to be more prominent among women,” said Dr. Grafova. “As a result, efforts to limit the impact of unemployment and, particularly of long term unemployment, may have important public health implications.”

“How does actual unemployment and the perceived risk of joblessness affect smoking behavior? Gender and intra-family effects” was published in the Review of Economics of the Household

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