IMMUNOLOGICAL EFFECTS OF UNEMPLOYMENT
Over the past decade evidence has accumulated for a relation between environmental, psychological, and immunological functions. We address whether unemployment leads to decreased immunological functioning.
The following indices of immune function were used. CD3, CD4, CD8, CD20, CD4/CD8 ratio, monocytes, and granulocytes. 45 randomly selected redundant and employed workers of two meat freezing plants in Auckland participated. Subjects were allocated to three groups: 15 meat factory workers who were yet to gain employment two years after compulsory redundancy; 15 meat factory workers who had gained employment after compulsory redundancy; and 15 employed subjects in a similar meat freezing occupation in another factory and who had not been made redundant (control group).
No significant differences were obtained between any of the groups with respect to cell percentages. However, planned comparison between the redundant/unemployed group and the control group for CD4/CD8 ratio revealed a significant difference. Planned comparisons between the control group and the
redundant/working group or between the redundant/unemployed group for the same variable did not reach significance. 16% of the redundant/unemployed group showed some clinical evidence of irnmunocompromise.
There may be reasons other than employment for a group to display compromised immune functioning. Examples are increased caffeine and alcohol intake. However, self-report of intake of these drugs was not significantly different for any of the groups in this study. The clinical significance of CD4/CD8 ratios obtained in this study can be gauged by the finding of similar ratios in AIDS patients and HIV seropositives. Although the latter groups typically have slightly lower ratios than reported for the unemployed group, the fact that despite the small samples employed, differences were statistically significant suggests that this is an important finding. In times of world-wide high unemployment, effects on immune function should be the focus of continued research.
D Marriott, B J Kirkwood, C Stough
Department of Psychology, University of Auckland
Lancet Vol 344 July 23, 1994; 269