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Having a job helps you sleep at night

Being unemployed makes it more likely you'll sleep too little or too much, with bad outcomes for your health.

How well we sleep is an important contributor to our health and wellbeing. Even a single bad night's sleep will drag down our mood and productivity the next day. Poor sleep over the longer term is linked to a raft of serious health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. Interestingly, we experience these sort of negative side effects if we sleep too little and if we sleep too much. Experts reckon seven to nine hours a night is the optimal amount of shut-eye.

Lots of us, however, aren’t hitting this mark. One set of research on Americans found that about two-fifths of people (38 percent) are regularly under- or over-sleeping. They also found that this number rises significantly amongst people who are unemployed (to 46 percent), and higher still amongst people who’ve been unemployed for more than a year (50 percent).

This sort of data can influence the way policymakers think about unemployment. When someone can’t find a job, there are all sorts of costs. Some of these fall on the individual (they forgo an income which they could use to pay rent or buy concert tickets or whatever) and some of these fall on the state (they may fund welfare payments, for example). How much of the costs are shouldered by each party often depends on the political and cultural norms of their society.

In the UK, many people think the state takes on too large a share. In the 2014 British Social Attitudes survey, over half said unemployment benefits were too high. The majority of government spending is funded by taxes, so those who want to reduce welfare would generally prefer either lower taxes or more spending on something else, such as schools or hospitals. However, the employment-sleep-health correlation we mentioned above shows it isn’t always that simple. In the event of mass unemployment, a state that pars back a jobseeker benefit may still end up shelling out extra money for increased health care costs.

These sort unexpected consequences of unemployment may soon become very relevant if, as expected, the UK sees mass job losses this year thanks to the Covid-19 lockdown and other restrictions.

Read our explainer on: unemployment

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