Objectives The aim of this study was to investigate self-rated health before and after labour force exit due to unemployment, economic inactivity or early retirement. A secondary objective was to investigate health before and after entering paid employment
Methods Trajectories of self-rated health in 520.830 employed and 278.954 non-employed persons were examined from the European Community Household Panel Survey (ECHP) for up to 5 years before and 6 years after labour force exit or re-employment, with yearly measurements from 1994–2001. Data were analysed by use of repeated-measures logistic regression with generalised estimating equations.
Results The likelihood of poor health increased among persons who became unemployed (OR = 1.15, 95% CI 1.04–1.28) or economically inactive (OR = 1.29 95% CI 1.17–1.42). Among persons who left the labour force due to early retirement the likelihood of poor health increased in the years before retirement (OR = 1.10 95% CI 1.07–1.13), whereas this increase was less steep in the years after early retirement. Among unemployed persons who re-entered paid employment the likelihood of poor health decreased (OR = 0.80 95% CI 0.71–0.91).
Conclusions Health is influenced by employment transitions into and out of the labour force. Policies should protect persons who leave the labour force against further deterioration of health. Entering paid employment is an important measure to improve self-rated health among unemployed persons.