Employment status and other predictors of mental health and cognitive functions in older Croatian workers

  • Adrijana Bjelajac Institute for Medical Research and Occupational Health, Zagreb
  • Jasminka Bobić Institute for Medical Research and Occupational Health, Zagreb
  • Jelena Kovačić Institute for Medical Research and Occupational Health, Zagreb
  • Veda Marija Varnai Institute for Medical Research and Occupational Health, Zagreb
  • Jelena Macan Institute for Medical Research and Occupational Health, Zagreb
  • Šime Smolić Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Zagreb
Keywords: aging, depression symptoms, loneliness, self-rated health, unemployment


The aim of this study was to examine mental health and cognitive functions in older Croatian workers (50–65 years) taking into account their employment status, self-assessed health, and a set of demographic characteristics. We analysed the data collected on 650 older workers (71 % employed) in the Wave 6 of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE). Unemployed workers reported symptoms of loneliness more often than the employed, while in rural areas unemployment was additionally associated with more pronounced symptoms of depression. Feeling of loneliness was also higher in those living without a partner in the household and in those with poorer health. In urban residents symptoms of depression were more severe in women, respondents with higher education, those living without a partner, and those who rated their health as poorer. As for cognitive functions, unemployment significantly predicted poorer subtraction in the rural subsample. Women in general showed less efficient numerical abilities. In the urban subsample poorer numerical abilities were also associated with lower education and living without a partner in the household. Better verbal recall was predicted by higher education and better self-rated memory. Higher scores in verbal fluency were predicted by urban residency and better self-rated health. Our results indicate that the protective factors for good mental health and cognitive functioning in older Croatian workers are being employed, having more education, living with a partner in the household, and being healthier. These findings stress the importance of implementing broader social policy strategies covering employment, education, and health.


Eurostat Statistics Explained. Europe 2020 indicators - employment [dislayed 25 March 2019]. Available at http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Europe_2020_indicators_-_employment

Galić Z, Šverko B. Effects of prolonged unemployment and reemployment on psychological and physical health. Rev Psychol 2008;15:3–10.

Kerovec N. Poteškoće u zapošljavanju osoba starije dobi [Difficulties in employing elderly persons, in Croatian]. Rev Soc Polit 2001;8:267–77. doi: 10.3935/rsp.v8i3.199

Šverko B, Galić Z, Maslić Seršić D. Nezaposlenost i socijalna isključenost: longitudinalna studija [Unemployment and social exclusion: a longitudinal study, in Croatian]. Rev Soc Polit 2006;13:1–14. doi: 10.3935/rsp.v13i1.417

Paul KI, Moser K. Unemployment impairs mental health: Meta-analyses. J Vocat Behav 2009;74:264–82. doi: 10.1016/j.jvb.2009.01.001

Worach-Kardas H, Kostrzewski S. Quality of life and health state of long-term unemployed in older production age. App Res Qual Life 2014;9:335–53. doi: 10.1007/s11482-013-9240-z

Wray LA. Mental health and labor force exits in older workers: the mediating or moderating roles of physical health and job factors. WP 2003-047 Michigan Retirement Research Center, University of Michigan, 2003 [displayed 25 March 2019]. Available at https://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/50572/wp047.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

Boyce CJ, Wood AM, Daly M, Sedikides C. Personality change following unemployment. J Appl Psychol 2015;100:991–1011. doi: 10.1037/a0038647

Mousteri V, Daly M, Delaney L. The scarring effect of unemployment on psychological well-being across Europe. Soc Sci Res 2018;72:146–69. doi: 10.1016/j.ssresearch.2018.01.007

Leist AK, Glymour MM, Mackenbach JP, van Lenthe FJ, Avendano M. Time away from work predicts later cognitive function: differences by activity during leave. Ann Epidemiol 2013;23:455–62. doi: 10.1016/j.annepidem.2013.05.014

Fitch C, Hamilton S, Bassett P, Davey R. The relationship between personal debt and mental health: a systematic review. Mental Health Rev J 2011;16:153–66. doi: 10.1108/13619321111202313

Šlachtová H, Jiřík V, Tomášek I, Tomášková H. Environmental and socioeconomic health inequalities: a review and an example of the industrial Ostrava region. Cent Eur J Public Health 2016;24(Suppl):S26–32. doi: 10.21101/cejph.a4535

Silva M, Loureiro A, Cardoso G. Social determinants of mental health: a review of the evidence. Eur J Psychiat 2016;30:259–92.

Jurcev-Savicevic A, Mulic R, Ban B, Kozul K, Bacun-Ivcek L, Valic J, Popijac-Cesar G, Marinovic-Dunatov S, Gotovac M, Simunovic A. Risk factors for pulmonary tuberculosis in Croatia: a matched case-control study. BMC Public Health 2013;13:991. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-13-991.

Vončina L, Pristaš I, Mastilica M, Polašek O, Šošić Z, Stevanović R. Use of preventive health care services among the unemployed in Croatia. Croat Med J 2007;48:667–74. PMCID: PMC2205972

Dragun A, Russo A, Rumboldt M. Socioeconomic stress and drug consumption: unemployment as an adverse health factor in Croatia. Croat Med J 2006;47:685–92. PMCID: PMC2080470

Bartley M. Unemployment and ill health: understanding the relationship. J Epidemiol Community Health 1994;48:333–7. PMCID: PMC1059979

Škare M, Buterin V. Modelling and forecasting unemployment non-linear dynamics using spectral analysis. Inz Ekon 2015;26:373–83. doi: 10.5755/j01.ee.26.4.8718

Bosque-Prous M, Espelt A, Sordo L, Guitart AM, Brugal MT, Bravo MJ. Job loss, unemployment and the incidence of hazardous drinking during the late 2000s recession in Europe among adults aged 50–64 years. PLoS One 2015;10(10):e0140017. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0140017

Brandt M, Hank K. Scars that will not disappear: long-term associations between early and later life unemployment under different welfare regimes. J Soc Policy 2014;43:727–43. doi: 10.1017/S0047279414000397

Alavinia SM, Burdorf A. Unemployment and retirement and ill-health: a cross-sectional analysis across European countries. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 2008;82:39–45. doi: 10.1007/s00420-008-0304-6

Börsch-Supan A. Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) Wave 6. Release version: 6.0.0. SHARE-ERIC. Data set. 2018. doi: 10.6103/SHARE.w6.600

Malter F, Börsch-Supan A, editors. SHARE Wave 6: Panel Innovations and Collecting Dried Blood Spots. Munich: Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA); 2017.

Börsch-Supan A, Brandt M, Hunkler C, Kneip T, Korbmacher J, Malter F, Schaan B, Stuck S, Zuber S. Data resource profile: The Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE). Int J Epidemiol 2013;42:992–1001. doi: 10.1093/ije/dyt088.

Malter F, Schuller K, Börsch-Supan A. SHARE Compliance Profiles - Wave 6. Munich: MEA, Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy; 2016.

Smolić Š. The determinants of health among the population aged 50 and over: evidence from Croatia. Public Sector Economics 2017;41:85–108. doi: 10.3326/pse.41.1.9

Eurostat Statistics Explained. International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) [displayed 26 March 2019]. Available at http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/International_Standard_Classification_ of_Education_(ISCED)#ISCED_1997_.28fields.29_and_ISCED-F_2013

Prince MJ, Reischies F, Beekman AT, Fuhrer R, Jonker C, Kivela SL, Lawlor BA, Lobo A, Magnusson H, Fichter M, van Oyen H, Roelands M, Skoog I, Turrina C, Copeland JR. Development of the EURO-D scale - a European Union initiative to compare symptoms of depression in 14 European centres. Br J Psychiatry 1999;174:330–8. doi: 10.1192/bjp.174.4.330

Hughes ME, Waite LJ, Hawkley LC, Cacioppo JT. A short scale for measuring loneliness in large surveys: results from two population-based studies. Res Aging 2004;26:655–72. doi: 10.1177/0164027504268574

Malter F, Börsch-Supan A, editors. SHARE Wave 4 Innovations & Methodology. Munich: MEA, Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy; 2013.

The R Development Core Team. R: A Language and Environment for Statistical Computing. Vienna: R Foundation for Statistical Computing; 2014.

Piccinelli M, Wilkinson G. Gender differences in depression: Critical review. Br J Psychiatry 2000;177:486–92. doi: 10.1192/bjp.177.6.486

Romans S, Cohen M, Forte T. Rates of depression and anxiety in urban and rural Canada. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 2011;46:567–75. doi: 10.1007/s00127-010-0222-2

Bailis DS, Segall A, Chipperfield JG. Two views of self-rated general health status. Soc Sci Med 2003;56:203–17. doi: 10.1016/S0277-9536(02)00020-5

Dominick KL, Ahern FM, Gold CH, Heller DA. Relationship of health-related quality of life to health care utilization and mortality among older adults. Aging Clin Exp Res 2002;14:499–508. doi: 10.1007/BF03327351

Idler EL, Benyamini Y. Self-rated health and mortality: a review of twenty-seven community studies. J Health Soc Behav 1997;38:21–37. doi: 10.2307/2955359

Lučanin D, Despot Lučanin J, Košćec Bjelajac A, Delale EA. Longitudinal psychosocial predictors of life satisfaction in old persons. In: Proceedings of the 20th Psychology Days in Zadar; 19–21 May 2017. Zadar, Croatia. Zadar: University of Zadar; 2017. p. 115–25.

Lachytova M, Katreniakova Z, Mikula P, Jendrichovsky M, Nagyova I. Associations between self-rated health, mental health problems and physical inactivity among urban adolescents. Eur J Public Health 2017;27:984–9. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/ckx051

Balash Y, Mordechovich M, Shabtai H. Merims D, Giladi N. Subjective memory decline in healthy community-dwelling elders. What does this complain mean? Acta Neurol Scand 2010;121:194–7. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0404.2009.01159.x

Huang Z, Maurer J. Validity of self-rated memory among middle-aged and older chinese adults: results from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS). Assessment 2017 Nov 1:1073191117741188. doi: 10.1177/1073191117741188

Benton AL, Sivan AB. Problems and conceptual issues in neuropsychological research in aging and dementia. J Clin Neuropsychol 1984;6:57–63. doi: 10.1080/01688638408401196

Klein DN, Kotov R, Bufferd SJ. Personality and depression: explanatory models and review of the evidence. Ann Rev Clin Psychol 2011;7:269–95. doi: 10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-032210-104540

How to Cite
Bjelajac A, Bobić J, Kovačić J, Varnai VM, Macan J, Smolić Šime. Employment status and other predictors of mental health and cognitive functions in older Croatian workers. AIHT [Internet]. 10Jun.2019 [cited 18Jun.2019];70(2). Available from: https://arhiv.imi.hr/index.php/arhiv/article/view/1087
Original article

Most read articles by the same author(s)