As if being unemployed is not depressing enough, now a new study claims that it helps you age faster. According to researchers, the financial and emotional stress of being jobless can make individuals physically older by accelerating the ageing process in cells.
The study found men who were unemployed for at least two years appeared to be biologically older than their gainfully employed counter parts of the same age.
Link between unemployment & accelerated aging assessed
Researchers from Imperial College London and the University of Oulu carried out a study to investigate the link between long-term unemployment and accelerated cellular aging. The study involved 5,620 men and women born in Finland in 1966.
Experts collected participants’ blood samples in 1997, when they were all 31 years old to explore the changes in telomeres, the tips at the ends of our chromosomes that protect our DNA.
Telomeres are believed to be the most reliable and accurate indicator of the speed of biological aging in a person. As we age and our cells divide, our telomeres get shorter – their structural integrity weakens, which can tell cells to stop dividing and die. Short telomeres are linked to a greater risk for age-related diseases like diabetes, cognitive impairment and cardiovascular issues.
“Shorter telomeres are linked to higher risk of various age-related diseases and earlier death. Stressful life experiences in childhood and adulthood have previously been linked to accelerated telomere shortening. We have now shown that long-term unemployment may cause premature aging too,” said researcher Jessica Buxton from the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London.
Outcome of the study
The analysis revealed men who had been unemployed for more than two of the previous three years were more than two times more likely to have short telomeres compared to those with regular jobs. The association persisted even when risk factors related with ageing such as illness, smoking, drinking and a sedentary lifestyle were taken into account.
“These findings raise concerns about the long-term effects of joblessness in early adulthood,” said researcher Leena Ala-Mursula from the University of Oulu. “Keeping people in work should be an essential part of general health promotion.”
The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE.