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Mental, Physical Health Effects of Long-Term Unemployment

By HERWriter
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Losing a job for a short period of time can generally cause some stress and depression, but picking up a new job can alleviate these mental issues in most cases. In long-term unemployment, psychological problems can linger and the only real solution in sight seems to be getting a new job.

However, in this economy, finding a job quickly after the initial unemployment stage is not always easy. This leaves the predicament of an increased likelihood of mental and physical health problems that are more long-lasting (in the case of a long-term unemployment).

In my last article, I mentioned one woman who was emotionally resilient, so even before she found a new job she bounced back to her original emotional state. However, even for short-term unemployment there could be longer and more serious mental and physical problems than this woman experienced. It seems more likely that long-term unemployment would produce these longer and more serious problems.

According to a U.S. News article from Oct. 2009, “5 million workers were out of work for six months or more in August.” The article continued to talk about the effect on mental health, which includes physical, psychological and spiritual effects.

Thomas Cottle, a sociologist mentioned in the article, said these effects can even extend the jobless period, since a person may be incapacitated and not functioning correctly in the above ways. Those who cannot function normally are generally not capable of looking for a job or succeeding in obtaining a job, or are severely limited in these areas. This is because stress, depression, anxiety and other mental problems can cause psychological and physical difficulties.

Depression, decreased self-esteem and identity crises are some common side effects of long-term unemployment, according to the article. Stress is also an effect to consider and all of these effects of long-term unemployment can affect family members of the unemployed person.

In a more recent article in the New York Times from Feb. 20, 6.3 million Americans are said to have been unemployed for six months or longer. This is “the largest number since the government began keeping track in 1948.”

It has been found in several studies that unemployment increases mortality rates, besides physical and mental problems. According to one study, people who are employed feel that they contribute to society and have a higher sense of self-esteem.

The principal investigator for the study, M. Harvey Brenner, said, “When that is taken away, people become susceptible to depression, cardiovascular disease, AIDS and many other illnesses that increase mortality."

Stress from long-term unemployment could even be a factor in developing a mental illness, like obsessive compulsive disorder or severe depression, if the anxiety is harmful enough to the person. However, this is generally when a person is already pre-disposed to a mental illness. Also, the person could become unemployed because they developed a mental disorder and couldn't function properly, several articles suggested.

An interesting factor to consider is that those who have mental and physical problems to begin with are worse off than other people who are unemployed. In a study in London, it was found that “unemployment among people with long-term mental health problems increased from 80 percent in 1990 to 92 percent in 1999, and the unemployment rates among those with a diagnosis of schizophrenia increased from 88 percent in 1990 to 96 percent in 1999.”

Those with long-term mental problems also had an increased unemployment rate while there was a decreasing general unemployment rate.

Overall, there needs to be more help and awareness for those who are suffering physically and psychologically due to long-term unemployment. It needs to be understood that physical and mental problems are often linked, and many times ill mental health can lead to many physical problems. For people who are unemployed and suffering, it would be best to look at their mental health status first and try to help them cope so they can be more able to find a job eventually.

There also needs to be more help for those who have a mental illness to prepare for finding a job. People with mental illnesses should have easier access to treatment, because without it, they could be stuck in a vicious cycle of not being able to get a job because of their deteriorated mental state.


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EmpowHER Guest

and I am 29 years old.

November 26, 2010 - 11:23am

Amazing, I went to lunch with a friend today because of this very thing! I lost my job end of Oct, and I some days find it difficult to make myself dress for the day. My husband has dementia and now his doctor has a PT coming in twice a week to help with his exercise, believe it or not, now at 92 he is in better health and happier than I, becaue he has no worries about the MONEY and the "WHAT IF"! I don't want to talk to people about it, because I felt foolish and that I was just being silly...But I realize now that I had attached my id to my job, I was .....Exe Asst! I had a purpose. Many years ago, I volunteered and did social type things, then I had to assume the roll of "head of house" and the wage earner...now I am the caretaker and it does not feel good. HOWEVER, this article helps, because I see that "I'm normal" and that this is something that others out of work are dealing with, too. So, I will pull my boots on and get myself back out there, not be ashamed, and seek work, so I can gain back that "good feeling"!
Thanks for the article.
Respectfully, Princeline

February 25, 2010 - 3:38pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Princeline)

I have been unemployed since July 2010 and I am unable to get back to work with two degrees, good work experience and speaking several languages. All day I look for jobs and different approaches (sending CV, cold cover letter..etc) I am depressed, don't like and don't communicate with people anymore. My physical condition is getting worse. I don't get help from anywhere. People keep telling me completely different things and to be honest after all I am willing to listen to myself.
Yes, every day I wake up with a positive attitude, but by end of the day my positiveness turns into tears. So then what the hell am I doing wrong? Shall I claim government benefit? Well, I tried....and the conclusion: I am not a woman with less than a GCSE with six children claiming housing and child benefit! Lost what to do?

November 26, 2010 - 11:20am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.