The Emotional Pain of Unemployment

Study describes how long-term joblessness affects both wallet and well-being.

Posted: 09/15/2011 10:54 PM EDT

As reports of first-time filers of unemployment benefits reach a two-month high since June, one thing remains clear: Millions of Americans are without work and have no predictor as to when the tides will turn.


However, a person who has experienced long-term unemployment — anyone looking for work for six months or more — is at a greater risk for the lasting financial and emotional pain that unemployment yields, according to data from the Pew Research Center.

 

In the report, which interviewed 810 adults ages 18 to 64 who are currently unemployed or who were jobless sometime since the recession officially began in December 2007, the adults polled describe the major toll unemployment has taken on their financial and emotional health.

 

From the Pew Research Center:

 

Family finances

 

A majority of the long-term unemployed (56%) say their family income has declined during the recession, compared with 42% who were out of work for less than three months and 26% of adults who have not been unemployed since the recession began in December 2007. Overall, the long-term unemployed are also more likely to say they are in worse shape financially now than before the recession.

 

Impact on relationships

 

Nearly half (46%) of those unemployed six months or more say joblessness has strained family relations, compared with 39% of those who were out of work for less than three months. At the same time, more than four-in-ten (43%) long-term unemployed say they lost contact with close friends.

 

Loss of self-respect

 

Nearly four-in-ten (38%) long-term unemployed report that they have lost some self-respect while out of work, compared with 29% who were jobless for shorter periods of time. The long-term unemployed are also significantly more likely to say they sought professional help for depression or other emotional issues while out of work (24% vs. 10% for those unemployed less than three months).

 

Impact on career goals

 

More than four-in-ten (43%) of the long-term unemployed say the recession will have a “big impact” on their ability to achieve their long-term career goals. Among those unemployed less than three months, 28% said being jobless would have a similarly serious impact.

 

Am I in the right job?

 

More than seven-in-ten long-term unemployed say they changed their careers or job fields or seriously thought about doing so. They also were more likely to pursue job retraining programs or other educational opportunities while out of work.

 

Settling for less

 

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 that their new job paid less and had worse benefits than their old one.

 

Pessimism on the job hunt

 

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.

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