The Impact of an Unemployment Insurance Reform on Incidence Rates of Hospitalisation Due to Alcohol-Related Disorders: A Quasi-Experimental Study of Heterogeneous Effects Across Ethnic Background, Educational Level, Employment Status, and Sex in Sweden
Many Western countries have scaled back social and health expenditure, including decreases in the generosity and coverage of unemployment insurance, resulting in negative effects on general health and well-being at the aggregate level. Yet, research has not sufficiently looked into heterogeneity of such effects across different subgroups of the population.
In Sweden, the 2006 unemployment insurance reform, implemented on the 1st of January 2007, encompassed a drastic increase in insurance fund membership fees, reduced benefit levels, and stricter eligibility requirements. As this particularly affected already socioeconomically disadvantaged groups in society, such as foreign-born and low-educated individuals, the current study hypothesise that the reform would also have a greater impact on health outcomes in these groups.
Based on register data for the total population, this study utilized a quasi-experimental approach to investigate heterogeneous health effects of the reform across ethnic background, educational level, employment status, and sex. Due to behaviorally caused diseases having a relatively shorter lag time from exposure, hospitalization due to alcohol-related disorders serves as the health outcome. A series of regression discontinuity models are used to analyze monthly incidence rates of hospitalization due to alcohol-related disorders among individuals aged 30–60 during the study period (2001–2012), with the threshold set to the 1st of January 2007.
The results suggest that, in general, there was no adverse effect of the reform on incidence rates of hospitalization due to alcohol-related disorders. A significant increase is nonetheless detected among the unemployed, largely driven by Swedish-born individuals with Swedish-born or foreign-born parents, low-educated individuals, and men.
The researchers conclude that the Swedish 2006 unemployment insurance reform generally resulted in increasing incidence rates of hospitalization due to alcohol-related disorders among unemployed population subgroups known to have higher levels of alcohol consumption.