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How Does Unemployment Affect a Job Seeker’s Mental Health?

Career Fair Held For Members Of The Military
Brendan Hoffman, Getty Images

The word “unemployment” gets thrown around a lot during tough times and especially during major elections when it’s easy to throw a number on a situation that affects a lot of people.

It’s easy to forget, though, that being unemployed can affect a lot more than a person’s bottom line.

A new study from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management published in the Academy of Management Journal tracked 177 unemployed workers for 20 weeks by having them fill out a weekly survey about how they feel. The study found that those actively looking for a job had better general mental health, but could decrease the longer they go without finding one.

The study found that depression usually starts after 10-12 weeks of unemployment during a job search.

The study also delved deeper into the struggle to find a job and how the process can take its toll on a person trying to return to the work force full-time. Professor Connie Wanberg wrote in the study that the process of a job search can completely destroy a person’s sense of structure and control and those factors alone can have a detrimental affect on a person’s mental health.

Looking for a job is an unfolding task that is highly autonomous, self-organized, loosely structured, and ill-defined. Individuals must decide on their own how and how often to search, and they rarely receive feedback about the effectiveness of the job-search activities and the strategies they are using.”

The upside to the study is that there is light at the end of this long tunnel. 72 percent of the participants were able to find a steady job during the 2o-week period of the study.


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