The Trauma of Job Loss includes Health Problems, even Fatal Ones

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The first to have a heart attack was George Kull Jr., 56, a millwright who worked for three decades at the steel mills in Lackawanna, N.Y. Three weeks after learning that his plant was closing, he suddenly collapsed at home.

Less than two hours later, he was pronounced dead.

A few weeks after that, a co-worker, Bob Smith, 42, a forklift operator with four young children, started having chest pains. He learned at the doctor’s office that he was having a heart attack. Surgeons inserted three stents, saving his life.

Less than a month later, Don Turner, 55, a crane operator who had started at the mills as a teenager, was found by his wife, Darlene, slumped on a love seat, stricken by a fatal heart attack.

It is impossible to say exactly why these men, all in relatively good health, had heart attacks within weeks of one another. But interviews with friends and relatives of Mr. Kull and Mr. Turner, and with Mr. Smith, suggest that the trauma of losing their jobs might have played a role.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & MedicineMenPsychology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

7 Comments
Posted February 26, 2010 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Jeremy Bonner wrote:

I’m guessing that this is the link Kendall had in mind.

February 26, 7:47 am | [comment link]
2. Kendall Harmon wrote:

Yes, messed up earlier, now fixed—sorry.  I had a haunting experience with this article which I read last night waiting for a hair cut appointment.  I was tired at the end of the day and a bit out of it and based on the initial paragraphs I thought i was reading an article about a toxic substance leak problem at the plant in question.
It was a real shock to learn it was about job loss.

“In perhaps the most sobering finding, a study published last year found that layoffs can affect life expectancy. The paper, by Till von Wachter, a Columbia University economist, and Daniel G. Sullivan, director of research at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, examined death records and earnings data in Pennsylvania during the recession of the early 1980s and concluded that death rates among high-seniority male workers jumped by 50 percent to 100 percent in the year after a job loss, depending on the worker’s age. Even 20 years later, deaths were 10 percent to 15 percent higher. That meant a worker who lost his job at age 40 had his life expectancy cut by a year to a year and half.’

Those are sobering statistics.

February 26, 8:21 am | [comment link]
3. Daniel wrote:

So let me get this straight.  A 42 year old man who needs three stents is in “relatively good health”!?  This sounds to me like the NYT trying to get political mileage out of a “dog bites man” story.

February 26, 9:35 am | [comment link]
4. phil swain wrote:

During college one summer I worked as a lidman on the coke ovens at the Bethlehem Steel plant in Lackawanna.  Loss of those jobs probably extended those workers’ lives.

February 26, 9:47 am | [comment link]
5. IchabodKunkleberry wrote:

Layoffs can cause this; more generally, chronic stress and worries,
are the villains in causing heart attacks. Truly, stress is the silent
killer.

  I find these stories chilling. Just over 5 years ago, thinking I had
stomach flu or serious indigestion, I drove to a hospital’s ER, and
promptly had a heart attack in front of a cardiologist. A stent was
immediately inserted and my heart needed to be restarted. I was
later told that this all happened so quickly that essentially no
damage occurred to the heart. Positive lifestyle changes soon
followed.

  May God have mercy on the souls of those men and bring
comfort and consolation to their families. May God be praised
for his gratuitous kindness to me.

February 26, 11:46 am | [comment link]
6. Cennydd wrote:

All of this is something for cost-cutting executives to ponder the next time they consider shutting down plants and laying off long-term employees.

February 26, 12:34 pm | [comment link]
7. upnorfjoel wrote:

Unfortunately #6, they will think about it for about as long as it takes to complete their labor cost analysis, and then they’ll do what they have to do anyway.  Nice thought though.

February 26, 10:10 pm | [comment link]
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