unemployment status

Does Unemployment Destroy Your Mental Health?

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For people whose stability rests in the daily 9-5 grind at the office, unemployment could be a devastating blow. 

This is something I know first hand. 

I’ve been unemployed several times in the past 5 years, and what I’ve noticed is that my depression, anxiety and OCD increased significantly during periods where I wasn’t working. 

Even when I thought I was enjoying some time off I couldn’t help but stress out over when the next interview would come. I didn’t want to be without a paycheck.

My unemployment status greatly affected my confidence and willingness to keep trucking along. 

Aside from my own personal experience, I wanted to see if there was any empirical evidence to back my point. What I found was a 2017 study from NCBI which measured the mental health status of men and women who had been unemployed in Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

The study’s results included findings pointing to unemployment having a negative impact on mental health. 

A randomly selected working age group of men and women were monitored during the study. 62 percent of them were unemployed for 5 years and had no prior work experience. Another 49 percent had also been unemployed for 5 years, but had worked before that time. Here’s what they found. 

“Unemployment was associated with worsening of mental health. The unemployed participants had poorer mental health status compared to the employed participants. The unemployed participants with previous work experience had the highest mean mental health score, and consequently the highest impairment of mental health status,” the study read. 

That last part reveals that those who had experienced consistent work before being unemployed had a harder time managing their mental health. 

This brings me to my next theory. I believe that consistent work conditions us into thinking that it will always be there, but when we lose it we feel totally lost. 

I worked from age 16 until 30. There was never a period during that time where I did not have a job. I even worked multiple jobs at one time. I often mocked those who were out of work because I thought it was due to their own choosing or laziness. But I was wrong and foolish. 

I had other aspirations in life, but a job always paid me, gave me a group of friends, and somewhere to go everyday. Without that I didn’t know what to do. I missed all the awesome conversations and outings we’d have when I was out of work. I was stuck in the house with nothing to do during most of my unemployment stints. 

The combination of these factors led to the degradation of my mental health. 

The last time I was unemployed I tricked my brain by giving it a routine. Sure, I still felt the pressure of not having a steady paycheck, but by doing the same thing everyday and treating it like a job, I was able to avoid some of the heavier bouts with depression and anxiety. 

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