November 24, 2021

NIOSH Researchers Examine Link Between Employment and Healthcare Access

Access to affordable healthcare was “problematic” among workers who were self-employed or unemployed for a short time, according to a new study conducted by NIOSH researchers. The study, which was published online earlier this month in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, focused on the relationship between employment status, access to healthcare, and health outcomes. NIOSH found that respondents who were short-term unemployed—or out of work for less than a year—were most likely to face challenges related to healthcare access. For example, agency researchers found that this group was least likely to have health insurance or a personal healthcare provider. Individuals who were self-employed reported gaps in healthcare use and were the least likely to have had a routine check-up in the year before they responded to the survey. Adverse health outcomes were highest among those who were unable to work, the study shows.

The study used data from the 2018–2019 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a system of telephone surveys that collect state data about U.S. residents regarding health-related risk behaviors, chronic health conditions, and use of preventive services. NIOSH’s analysis included responses from more than 278,000 people aged 25 to 54 years.

“In the U.S. healthcare system, healthcare access is closely linked to work, with the majority of working-age adults having employer-sponsored insurance,” said Sharon Silver, a NIOSH epidemiologist and lead author of the study. “Addressing access to affordable healthcare and other resources is key to preventing health declines that may hinder re-employment, particularly among the short-term unemployed.”

Further details about the study are available in a news update from NIOSH.