A recent article in the Washington Post highlighted one of the most damaging aspects of long-term unemployment – declining health. While many economists focus upon the lost earnings suffered by the long-term unemployed and the deterioration of skills, fewer are likely to focus upon the negative physical and mental impacts associated with extended periods of joblessness.
The article focuses intensely on one of Maryland’s most historic and beautiful communities – Hagerstown. The community has suffered large blue collar job losses in recent years and even during the fifth year of economic recovery is associated with an unemployment rate in excess of 8 percent. Not coincidentally, a recent analysis ranked the community as the third heaviest place in America, with almost 37 percent of its residents characterized as obese. Other studies estimate that the actual proportion is even higher.
In fact, around the U.S., high unemployment and high obesity rates are converging. In Toledo, Ohio, unemployment is around 7 percent, obesity around 34 percent. In McAllen, Texas, unemployment is nearly 10 percent and obesity stands at 38 percent. There are many forces at work, including the fact that unemployment can lead to reduced consumption of healthy foods.