No Job? If You're White, and a Woman with Little Education, It May Kill You

It's been out there for some time but more and more studies are pointing to the decreasing life expectancy of women who are white and don't have much education. At first it was thought that cigarettes were the culprit, as many in this population smoke.

But now a new study has found that joblessness also shortens lifespans for women.

No one is quite sure why this should be, but as someone who has fought unemployment as a freelance writer for long stretches of my life (thank God, often followed by long stretches of work), I know how depressing and life-draining it can be.

I get my identity from my work (when I first became a mother, I thought I had lost myself), and when I'm not working, or writing, I start to shrink.  I feel like everyone is looking at me and thinking I'm a failure (in reality, no one cares!), but the worst part is, I feel like a failure.  I don't know where this comes from as I grew up in a traditional Italian family, where my bigger failure was seen as not marrying till I was almost out of my 30s and not having a baby till I was almost out of my 40s!

Work to me is life, and I'm not sure that it's the same for women who don't have a high school diploma, but there it is.

“What is it about employment that has this huge impact on mortality, beyond the material resources it brings?” The New York Times quotes Jennifer Karas Montez, the study’s lead author, a researcher at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies.      

According to the story, a study last year "found that white women without a high school diploma lost five years of life expectancy between 1990 and 2008, a measure of decline last seen among Russians in the economic chaos that came after the fall of the Soviet Union." This year, studies have found that "mortality for women had gone up in more than 40 percent of the counties in the United States since the early 1990s."

No one can put his finger on how physical health relates to employment status.   Possibly some of it could come from the fact that many of these women came from poor families without a lot of resources, putting them at a disadvantage from the get-go.   But how very sad to see, in this country where there is so much wealth, that there are also so many going without.        


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