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Individuals who have experienced long-term unemployment (longer than 25 weeks) are three times more likely than people employed throughout the past year to experience mental health issues for the first time.
Researchers at Washington and Lee University also found that people with more than a high school education suffer greater psychological impacts from long-term unemployment than those with less formal education. The results of the study were revealed at a congressional briefing on the psychological benefits of employment and the impact of joblessness, sponsored by the American Psychological Association.
Arthur Goldsmith, the Jackson T. Stephens Professor of Economics at W&L said the new study isolated a population of so-called “resilient individuals” who had never previously had a bout of emotional-health issues.
“In looking at this group of resilient individuals, we compared the psychological health of those who were fully employed with those who were exposed to short-term unemployment or less than 25 weeks of involuntary joblessness, and with people who were exposed to long-term unemployment over the past year,” Goldsmith explained. “The reason we focus on this group is that if you’re 55 years old, and you’ve never had a bout of poor emotional well-being that would be described clinically in that way, and have your first bout in the past year when you are exposed to unemployment, it’s very unlikely that your poor mental health led to the unemployment rather than your unemployment leading to the poor mental health. Thus, we are able to address the issue of causality that has plagued prior studies of the link between unemployment and mental health.”
Two sources of poor mental health coming out of unemployment are depression and general anxiety. “When people are exposed to long-term unemployment, they obviously feel that they’ve lost control of their capacity to earn a living and take care of their families,” he said.
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