Unemployment Linked to Mental Health Problems

By Unemployment-Extension.org | April 14, 2015 at 9:59 PM |

A new study found that unemployment triples a young adult’s risk of depression. The study, conducted by Robin McGee and Nancy Thompson from the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta, used data from the 2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System to discern the extent of depression in unemployed young adults between the ages of 18 and 25.

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The researchers determined that the overall rate of unemployment in the demographic was 23%, while the overall rate of depression was 12%. However, the rate of depression among those young adults who were unemployed was a staggering 36% — three times the overall average. The results suggest that a high unemployment rate isn’t just an economic issue. It is also a public health problem.

However, McGee did say that the study could not accurately discern whether unemployment contributed to depression or whether depression contributed to unemployment. Because the issues are interactively intertwined, it is challenging to determine exact causation. For example, the researchers explained that depression among young adults couldn’t solely be attributed to a difficult job market and tough economic times.

They pointed to a plethora of other reasons that could contribute to depressive conditions in the demographic, including failure to finish high school, struggles in college, and other serious health issues. The study showed that several variables, such as lack of a high school diploma, a lack of health insurance, obesity, and disability, were also associated with higher rates of depression.

Number of Weeks of unemployment benefits by state April 2015

While there is no doubt that further research is needed to fully tease out the complex relationship between unemployment and depression, McGee said that the study sheds light on the fact that more mental health resources should be directed at this vulnerable population.

“Unemployed emerging adults are a population that may benefit from mental health and employment-focused interventions,” McGee said. “If these interventions are administered early, then we may be able to develop people skills that could have a positive life-changing impact over a lifetime.”

Many mental health professionals agree with McGee’s assertion. Simon Rego, the head of psychology practice at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, argued that providing mental health-focused education for this young adult demographic can be a powerful way to combat the negative consequences of unemployment and depression. Also, it would “lead to better overall mental health prospects.”

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