Evidence relating unemployment to health is found at every level of social science analysis from national population rates to individual psychophysiological stress response. At the population level of analysis, increase in the unemployment rate indicates recession and/or structural economic decline. At the individual level, unemployment is interpreted as a stressful life event. In both cases, inverse associations are found between measures of unemployment and indicators of health. We identify social science literatures associating health indicators with each of the following: economic growth, socioeconomic status, sociocultural change, economic instability, the status of being unemployed, social stress and work stress. Outstanding research issues include the requirements to identify and measure the effects of conditional factors and control variables in multivariate analysis and to examine a broader range of both severity of unemployment and severity of health outcomes. A research agenda proposes studies at the macro, meso and micro levels of analysis. We urge such research for its potential contribution both to analytic social science and to economic and social policy.