People out of work feel less healthy than those in work

© Hollandse Hoogte / Julius Schrank
People in paid employment are generally healthier than people without a job. Of all employed persons, 90 percent rate their health as good or excellent. Of those who are not employed, 76 percent say they have good, very good or excellent health. This is the outcome of a survey conducted by Statistics Netherlands (CBS) over the period 2007-2017, commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment.


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The rating ‘poor’ or ‘excellent’ is more prevalent among people who do not work than among those who do. Among people in work, the distribution over the various categories is less even and the average is higher. On a scale from 1 to 5, the average score of people in work is 3.4, versus 3.0 for people out of work.

Perceived health (20 to 64 yrs), 2007-20131)
 In work (%)Out of work (%)
Very good14.517.6
1)During the survey period, respondents answered the question regarding perceived health more than once. This chart only shows the answer that was given the first time.

Information about employment and health status over a longer span of time

To assess whether less healthy people have more difficulties finding work or whether perceived health is affected by working or not working, a group of people were monitored over a longer period of time. In doing so, data from ‘LifeLines’ (a long-term health survey conducted among the inhabitants of the provinces of Groningen, Friesland and Drenthe) were combined with CBS data on the labour market position of these persons.

The survey was conducted based on data on approximately 112 thousand persons who were included in both the sources and who self-reported on their health. Throughout the entire survey period, the respondents were people between the ages of 20 and 65 years. The period was not equally long for each respondent but ranged from two to ten years.

People without work who feel healthy more likely to find work

More than 40 percent of those who do not work and perceive their health as excellent found paid work during the survey period. This is 7 percent among those without work who consider their health to be poor.

Employment status of people out of work (20 to 64 yrs) by perceived health, 2007-2017
 No change (%)From not working to working (%)
Very good59.740.3

Healthy people in work less likely to lose their job

Furthermore, loss of employment varies according to health level. Among those with a permanent job, 6 percent were not in work anymore at the end of the survey period, versus 15 percent of those with a flexible job. The degree of health of the respondents made a difference in this respect. Healthier persons were less likely to lose their job.

Loss of work by perceived health (20 to 64 yrs), 2007-2017
 From permanent work to not working (%)From flexible work to not working (%)
Very good4.412.1

Health deterioration more common among jobless people

People out of work are more likely to experience health deterioration than people in work. Sixty percent of those who did not work and initially described their health as ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’ reported a deterioration during the survey period. This share amounted to 55 percent among people who did work.

Perceived deterioration of health (20 to 64 yrs), 2007-2017
 Deterioration of health (%)
Permanent contract54
Flexible contract53
Not in work60

Other factors influencing labour and health

The probability of finding or losing work is also linked to many other characteristics such as sex, age, education level and occupational class. The self-perceived health status is also different according to each of these characteristics; for example, women, low-skilled people and the elderly are more likely to assess their health as poorer than men, medium/higher educated and young people, respectively. Even if all these characteristics are taken into account, perceived health remains related to the possibility of finding or losing a job. Conversely, having or not having paid work remains related to changes in perceived health.