Men’s Health Information and Resource Centre

The Men's Health Forum: Sick Of Being Unemployed

mhf workfoundation logo A new report produced by the Men's Health Forum and The Work Foundation shows the health issues of unemployed men and that support services are failing to address health issues experienced by them.

"Poor health is not only a likely outcome of unemployment, but can be a barrier to returning to work as well - creating a "negative feedback loop" which can trap an individual and prevent him from attaining and sustaining employment."

A report produced by the Men's Health Forum and The Work Foundation exploring recent research from both the academic and grey literature, this report will begin by bringing into focus the link between unemployment and poor health in men, before moving on to consider the gender differences in use of health services.

The report finishes by addressing the lack of recognition that health receives in existing back to work support services, and the support that could be put in place in unemployment services to prevent and tackle poor health as a barrier to work.


Evidence shows that unemployed men are more likely to suffer adverse health consequences than women. Men employed in unstable or temporary work, or men with a lower socioeconomic status are particularly at risk of ill health. Unemployment has a negative effect on men's health and can lead to issues such as:

  • long-term physical problems
  • mental health problems
  • worsening pre-existing conditions

Men may suffer poor health due to unemployment, and this causes difficulty returning to, and staying in work. Although employment services in the UK have the potential resources and capacity in the form of specialist health support within the Work Programme, they have made few efforts to address the issue.

In order to improve health and unemployment outcomes there must be ways in which unemployed men can access health services and receive appropriate support.


  • Job centres must be supported to have the capability to help prevent poor health in unemployed men.
  • Support must be given to back to work support providers to identify men at risk of, or men that are already suffering ill health.
  • The Government needs to make preventing ill health and addressing existing health conditions a priority within back to work support services.
  • Further primary research is needed in this area. Little, recent research has been conducted in the area of health and unemployment in regards to the UK benefit system, particularly the Work Programme.
  • The impact of changes to the welfare system such as increasing conditionality and payment by results
  • Incentive structures should be considered, as well as the health of the unemployed who are not claiming out of work benefit

Summary Of Recommendations

  • When an individual claims an out of work benefit, an assessment of barriers to returning to work couldbe introduced to help identify individuals with health conditions, or those at risk of ill health due to unemployment.
  • Greater incentives and support needs to be given to Work Programme providers to deal with health issues that prevents returning to work, or develop during unemployment.
  • Linking job outcome payments to level of need rather than benefit type, as this will encourage a greater focus on the next version of the Work Programme is commissioned in 2015.
  • The Government could focus on preventing ill health in unemployed men, and should be a part of back to work support provided through Jobcentre Plus. Actions to prevent poor health as soon as an individual claims an out of work benefit has the potential to be a cost saving intervention.
  • Local government should work in partnership with Jobcentres, health care providers and charities to create a Local Services Framework. This would provide a comprehensive guide to local specialist services available to Jobcentres, and should include organisations able to tackle health related barriers.

Resources Available

Related Links

Contact Information

Melbourne Institute

University Of Melbourne
Melbourne, Victoria 3010
Telephone: +61 3 8344 4000


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