Losing a job would bring anyone down. Add to it a tight job market and financial stress. It seems like anyone unemployed for at least a year would clearly have reason to be depressed. However, a new study shows that only 20 percent of the long-term unemployed have experienced depression.
Some think the news here is that one in five were depressed. Anyone who has lost a job and struggled to find a new one, however, would actually be surprised at how low the percentage is. It also begs the question are they more depressed than average Americans because they are having trouble finding a job, or are they having trouble finding a job because they are depressed?
New research shows that unemployed adults in the U.S. are more than twice as likely to have been treated for depression than adults who are employed. “The longer that Americans are unemployed,” according to the study author Steve Crabtree, “the more likely they are to report signs of poor psychological well-being.”
According to data from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, depression rates doubled for those who were unemployed for at least a year compared to those who had only been unemployed for a little over a month. A Gallup telephone poll questioned 356,599 Americans, of which 18,322 had been unemployed for all of 2013.
During the calls, 5.6 percent of those who were working full-time acknowledged that they were being treated for depression or are depressed. For those unemployed, the rate was 12.4 percent. However, if someone had been unemployed for more than a year, the percent of those who had dealt with or were currently dealing with depression jumped to 19 percent.
It is not a revolutionary finding that people lose faith and optimism when they have been longer, but the Gallup folk developed some interesting statistics. They asked the unemployed participant whether they believed they would find a job in the next month. It should be no surprise that the longer people had unemployed the less optimistic they were about their chances.
Seven out of 10 who have been out of work five weeks or less believed they would get a job within the next four weeks. For those unemployed for a year or more, fewer than three in 10 thought they might find a job in the next month. This drop in optimism clearly increases the risk of long-term unemployed dropping out of the workforce completely.
The long-term unemployed, unfortunately, have solid reasons to be less optimistic, since they are actually discriminated against in the job market. A 2012 study found that employers would rather hire people with no relevant experience who were out of work for less than six months, then people with solid experience who had been unemployed longer.
How big is the problem? The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 9.8 million Americans were unemployed in May. Of those, 3.4 million have been out of work at least 27 weeks, at which point they are considered to be long-term unemployed.
Coupled with depression, the job search is even more dismal for the long-term unemployed than it was in the beginning. The longer a person grapples with negative emotions, the harder it gets to overcome, which is why the longer-term unemployed become “stuck” and often give up. That is what makes it so surprising that depression was found to affect only 20 percent of those who have been unemployed long-term; given the economic picture in recent years, one would think it would actually be higher.
By Dyanne Weiss
Los Angeles Times