(HealthDay News) – Middle-aged and older individuals in the United States who have experienced job losses are at higher risk of having a heart attack, particularly during the first year of unemployment, according to a study published online Nov. 19 in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Matthew E. Dupre, PhD, from Duke University in Durham, NC, and colleagues examined the association between unemployment and acute myocardial infarction (AMI) in a prospective cohort of 13,451 individuals in the United States (median age, 62 years) who were interviewed every two years from 1992–2010. AMI occurred in 7.9% of the group, and 14% were unemployed at baseline, 69.7% had at least one job loss, and 35.1% had spent time unemployed.

The researchers found the risk of AMI to be significantly higher among the unemployed (hazard ratio, 1.35). Compared with no job loss, the hazard ratio was 1.22 for one job loss and rose to 1.63 for four or more job losses. The risks for AMI were highest during the first year of unemployment (hazard ratio, 1.27). The elevated risks persisted despite adjustment for multiple clinical, socioeconomic, and behavioral risk factors.

“Unemployment status, multiple job losses, and short periods without work are all significant risk factors for acute cardiovascular events,” Dupre and colleagues conclude.

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