Americans who have been out of work for a year or more are much more likely to be obese, which could lead to even longer stints of unemployment for workers applying for jobs that require hard physical labor, Gallup found in a poll released Wednesday.
Long term joblessness -- unemployment lasting longer than 27 weeks -- continues to be at crisis levels in the U.S. amid this most sluggish recovery from the worst recession in decades.
With the long term unemployed prone to sitting around the house with little to do but snack and watch TV, Gallup found the obesity rate rises from 22.8 percent among those unemployed for two weeks or less to 32.7 percent among those unemployed for 52 weeks or more.
One main concern is that employers in industries that require manual labor, such as manufacturing and construction, may be less likely to hire candidates who are clearly out of shape. If so, workers in these industries -- who already earn lower wages, on average, than those in knowledge-based sectors -- may be even more likely to be caught in a negative cycle of joblessness and poor health, Gallup found.
More broadly, private employers' high healthcare costs might lead them to avoid taking chances on those who pose greater health risks, particularly in this still weak economy. As a result, candidates who are obese and who have been out of work for 27 weeks or more may have two strikes against them even before they sit down for an interview, Gallup found.
Other risks more common among the long term unemployed are high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Gallup and Healthways, a global well-being improvement leader, also track the percentages of Americans who say they currently have or are being treated for health conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
In both cases, the differences between the short-term unemployed and the long-term unemployed are striking, with those out of work for 27 weeks or more twice as likely to say they currently have high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
Over the longer term, one of the most worrisome implications is that many of those who have been unemployed for a prolonged period may suffer chronic health problems even if they successfully re-enter the workforce.
A 2009 study of Pennsylvania workers laid off in the 1970s and 1980s found that even 20 years later, these workers were 10 percent to 15 percent more likely to die in a given year than those who had not suffered a job loss, Gallup found.