Long-Term Unemployed Struggle with Mental Health Issues

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The Longer Americans Are Unemployed, The More They Struggle With Their Mental Health

The long-term unemployed are more likely to report suffering from poor psychological well-being, according to a new survey from Gallup. Among the Americans who have been out of work for a year or more, about one in five say they’re currently struggling with depression. That’s almost double the rate of depression among the Americans who have been unemployed for five weeks or less:

“Record-high rates of long-term unemployment remain one of the most devastating effects of the Great Recession in the U.S. The economic cost is huge — but just as tragic are signs of poor mental health among unemployed Americans,” the researchers conclude.

long-term unemployed

It’s not clear that unemployment directly causes higher rates of depression, since it’s possible that the Americans who are already struggling with their mental health tend to have trouble finding a job. But the Gallup researchers point out that tracking the health effects of joblessness could help policymakers figure out how to mitigate this relationship. For instance, connecting unemployed individuals with programs to help them maintain their emotional well-being could improve their chances of being able to land and keep a new job.

Connecting unemployed individuals with programs to help them maintain their emotional well-being could improve their chances of being able to land and keep a new job.

This isn’t the first study to find a link between job status and mental health.large body of research confirms that economic distress is tied to psychological stressors, like anxiety. The long-term employed are more likely to struggle with hopelessness and less likely to maintain a strong network of social support from their families and friends.

The strain on unemployed Americans’ mental health can have devastating consequences. One recent analysis found that the U.S. suicide rate increased four times faster between 2008 and 2010 — right after the housing bubble burst — than it did in the eight years leading up to the Great Recession. According to a worldwide review of suicide data, the recent economic downturn led to a sharp spike in suicide rates around the globe, and there were bigger increases in suicides in the countries where people were accustomed to financial success before the recession hit.

tara-culp-resslerThere’s evidence that long-term unemployment has a negative impact on people’s physical health, too. It’s been associated with decreased life expectancy rates, largely because it puts people at risk of losing their health insurance at the same time as they take up unhealthy habits like smoking and gaining weight.

Tara Culp-Ressler
Think Progress


  1. llozano says

    Being unemployed myself I can see how it can either exacerbate an existing condition or create a new one. Especially when you don’t have a support system available and your financial resources are limited and on top of that you also have a family to care for. The pressure to find work and to find it quickly can be unbearable and overwhelming. Now that the Federal Extensions have not been renewed you have a perfect storm of conditions that could drive anyone over the edge.

  2. signalfire1 says

    I wanted to just say ‘duh’ but to be more helpful, it’s interesting that the rate of depression goes DOWN in the first few weeks after you’ve been released from slave labor, then goes up again as you realize the deck is stacked against you, and employers aren’t out there salivating at the chance to add you to their production lines and cubicle farms.

    I encourage everyone to think outside the employment box, investigate aquaponics as one possible way to support yourself (needs very little landspace, can use a driveway or patio, parking lot or church/school yard, produces both protein and vegetables, and can be expanded to support a family on a few hours a day, and will be ever more in demand as climate change devastates traditional food sources); also the ‘tiny’ or small housing movement which can eliminate the idiocy of 30+ year mortgages and feeding the gaping maw that are the banking and big box industries that simply consider us ‘consumers’ to be hooked up to a never-ending hamster wheel of debt. If you’re tired of your overlords, fire them. Best of all, the information you need is available free of charge, no student debt required.

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