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Is Unemployment Making You Sick?

A review of US unemployment, its relation to depression and suggestions for coping.

According to the Wall Street Journal over 14 million Americans are unemployed. As LaHart and Hagart mention in their article, although we are in an economic recovery phase, as of July 2011 the US job market has “7 million fewer jobs than when the recession started in late 2007”. Ben Tracy of CBS News comments that approximately 6.2 million Americans or 45.1 percent of all unemployed workers in the US have been without jobs for more than 6 months. That record, my friends, has reached an all-time high since the Great Depression of 1929.

Chronic State of Unemployment

If you have been searching for employment unsuccessfully take refuge in the thought that you are not alone; the Wall Street Journal notes that 30% or 4.4 million of unemployed Americans have been jobless for over a year; and that “more than 1 million of the long-term unemployed have run out of unemployment benefits”. The problem lies not with you, but rather the sad state of affairs in the US economy.

Unemployment and Depression

After three months of combing the internet in search of employment opportunities and countless hours copying and pasting your resume on job search engines without positive results, the average person begins to settle into feelings of discontentment, and after six months depression may prevail. Jenny Marlar reports recent Gallop findings which reveal that individuals “who are unemployed for more than six months are much more likely to experience daily negative emotions, including worry, sadness and stress…” The depression itself makes it more difficult for the individual to successfully seek employment and within a short period of time many of the unemployed can find themselves in a feedback loop of desperation.

Symptoms of Depression

Decrease in emotional well-being leads to physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, sexual dysfunction, fatigue and sluggishness. Emotional symptomology includes crying spells, irritability, and sadness, feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, as well as loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities. A three year study commissioned by the European Union and conducted by Yale Researcher Brenner found that higher unemployment is linked to a higher death rate.

Depression Relief

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Don’t wait till you feel depressed or identify with any of the qualifiers of depression, here are a few suggestions provided by Mary Winters from Iowa State University:

Unemployment Survival Kit

I would add a few things to our unemployment survival kit:

Unemployment can literally make you sick. Don’t let it.