We examine the relationship between unemployment and self-assessed health using the European Community Household Panel for Finland over the period 1996–2001. Our results show that the event of becoming unemployed does not matter as such for self-assessed health. The health status of those that end up being unemployed is lower than that of the continually employed. Therefore, persons who have poor health are being selected for the pool of the unemployed. This explains why, in a cross-section, unemployment is associated with poor self-assessed health. All in all, the cross-sectional negative relationship between unemployment and self-assessed health is not found longitudinally. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.