Losing a job later in life more than doubles the risk of having a heart attack or stroke, according to research from Yale University.
The Yale University study started in 1991 and was based around more than 12,500 people from almost 8,000 households, but focused in on more than 4,300 people aged between 51 and 61 who were all in work at the time.
Ten years later, more than 1,200 of these had retired and nearly 600 had died. Another 450 had temporarily stopped work and 960 had left full time work for other reasons.
Of the remainder, 582 people had lost their jobs and 3,719 were still in work, the research found.
During the 10 years, 202 had had a heart attack, of which 23 occurred in those who were jobless, and after they had been made redundant.
Similarly, 140 people had a stroke, of which 33 occurred in the jobless group, with 13 occurring after the job loss.
Analysis of the figures showed that those who had been made redundant over the age of 50 were more then twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke compared with those who were still in work, the researchers concluded.
The "exceptional stress" of losing a job was a key factor in the findings, and doctors and policy-makers should be aware of physical effects where the "true costs of unemployment exceed the obvious economic costs", it warned.
The research was published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, part of the British Medical Journal.
"We found that workers over 50 years of age who experience involuntary job loss are at increased risk for both subsequent heart attack and stroke relative to individuals who continue to work," the research concluded.
"The magnitudes of association are substantial, with job losers having over twice the risk of these events compared with workers who remain employed.
"For many individuals, late career job loss is an exceptionally stressful experience with the potential for provoking numerous undesirable outcomes, including cardiovascular and cerebrovascular events.
"Doctors who treat individuals who lose jobs as they approach retirement should consider the loss of employment, with its associated anxiety and affective symptomatology, as a risk factor for adverse health changes.
"Based on our results, the true costs of unemployment exceed the obvious economic costs and include substantial health consequences as well," it added.
The research also said the findings held true even after adjusting for risk factors such as smoking, obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.