Unemployment Brings Emotional Cost on Top of Financial Losses
By Sara Murray
It’s a common refrain among the long-term unemployed: Joblessness comes with a financial loss, but the emotional price tag might be even higher.
A new Pew Research Center survey puts numbers to that sentiment. Among those who have been out of work for at least six months, 38% say they’ve lost some self respect since they lost their job, based on data from interviews with 810 adults, ages 18 to 64, who are currently unemployed or had been at some point during the recession. For those unemployed for shorter spells, 29% felt they had lost some self respect.
Nearly a quarter of the long-term unemployed workers surveyed said they had turned to professional help for depression or some other emotional issue after losing their jobs. Just 10% of those out of work for less than 3 months said the same.
Anxiety and depression are common problems among the long-term unemployed and research has shown spells of joblessness can have serious heath effects. In fact, a layoff could decrease a middle-aged worker’s life span by one to 1.5 years, according to a 2009 study by Till Marco von Wachter, a Columbia University economist and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s Daniel Sullivan.
Social habits also tend to change more for those who’ve been jobless for at least six months. In slashing their budgets, often the first cuts are for social gatherings. Some 43% of long-term unemployed people said they had lost contact with close friends, according to Pew. For those out of work for less than three months, 35% had lost touch with friends.
The strain on family relationships was even higher. Nearly half, 46%, of the long-term unemployed reported tension in their family relationships compared to 39% who said the same but had been jobless for less than three months.
Longer spells of joblessness changed workers’ plans for the future as well. Some 43% of long-term unemployed Americans said the recession will have a big impact on their ability to achieve long-term goals. And many had to scale down their goals: “Among workers who found a job after being unemployed for six months or longer, about three-in-ten (29%) say their new job is worse than the one they lost, compared with only 16% of re-employed workers who had been jobless for less than six months. In separate questions, these workers also report their new job paid less and had worse benefits than their old one,” Pew says.
The majority of workers unemployed for at least six months also expanded their search. Seven in 10 said they either changed careers or put serious thought into it. And as the job search drags on, workers grow more pessimistic. “Among adults who are currently unemployed, those who have been jobless for six months or longer are significantly more pessimistic than the short-term unemployed about their chances of finding a job as good as the one they lost,” according to Pew.