Open Access Open Badges Research article

Health-related and social factors predicting non-reemployment amongst newly unemployed

Mikael Skärlund*, Annika Åhs and Ragnar Westerling

Author Affiliations

Department of Public Health and Caring Sciences, Section for Social Medicine, Uppsala University, Box 564, Uppsala 751 22, Sweden

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Public Health 2012, 12:893  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-893

Published: 23 October 2012



Many researchers have examined the effect that mental health has on reemployment opportunities amongst the unemployed, but the results are inconclusive. Our aim in this study is to investigate the effects that different aspects of mental and physical health, as well as socio-demographic, social, and economic factors, have on reemployment.


A questionnaire was administered to 1,000 and answered by 502 newly registered unemployed Swedes, who were followed for one year using data from the Swedish National Labour Market Board. The differences between those reemployed and those not reemployed was analysed using stepwise logistic regression.


General mental ill health amongst unemployed individuals measured by the General Health Questionnaire scale was associated with lower levels of reemployment after one year. This effect could not be explained by any of the scales measuring specific aspects of mental disease such as health-related level of function, rate of depression, burnout, or alcohol misuse. Instead being above 45, low control over one’s financial situation, being an immigrant, and visiting a physician during the last three months were better predictors of failure to be reemployed.


There are theoretical reasons to assume that psychological distress leads to a decreased reemployment rate amongst the unemployed. The results of this study partly endorse this hypothesis empirically, showing that general subjective mental distress decreases the rate of reemployment amongst newly unemployed individuals, although this effect was mediated by social and economic factors. Indicators of psychiatric disease had no significant effect on reemployment. The results of this study lead us to suggest the early introduction of financial counselling, psychological support, and other interventions for groups with lower reemployment rates.