Long-Term Unemployment Takes Toll on the Worker Psyche
The longer that Americans are unemployed, the more likely they are to report signs of depression. / Credit: Unemployed image via Shutterstock

Helping long-term unemployed workers re-enter the workforce may require more than skills training and job-search assistance. Policy makers may need to consider ways to help workers keep their spirits up, too.

That's the recommendation made by Gallup in light of recent research finding that the longer Americans are unemployed, the more likely they are to report signs of poor psychological well-being. Specifically, about one in five Americans who have been unemployed for at least a year say they have been or are currently being treated for depression, nearly double the rate among those who have been out of work for less than five weeks.

The study revealed that, overall, 12.4 percent of unemployed Americans have been or are being treated for depression, compared to just 5.6 percent of those with full-time jobs. However, the depression rate among the long-term unemployed, those who have been out of work for at least 27 weeks, jumps to 18 percent.

According to Gallup, the loss of hope that can accompany long-term unemployment harm not only job seekers' quality of life, but also to their ability to find good jobs.

"The likelihood of unemployed Americans to agree that they will find a job within the next four weeks falls sharply the longer they are unemployed — from about seven in 10 among those unemployed for five weeks or less, to fewer than three in 10 among those who have been jobless for a year or more," Gallup consultant Steve Crabtree writes on the Gallup website. "This marked drop in optimism may affect job seekers' motivation, increasing the risk that they will drop out of the labor force altogether."

Unemployed Americans find far fewer reasons to be happy than those who have been out of work for a shorter time, the study found. The research also shows that more than 80 percent of those unemployed for less than six months found things to smile or laugh about "yesterday, " compared to just 70 percent of the long-term unemployed.

Gallup researchers say that while a common concern is that extended unemployment causes workers' skills to deteriorate, the effects of joblessness on candidates' mental health may cause just as much damage to their ability to both find and hold onto a good job.

The study's authors point to previous research from Princeton University showing that many who find work after a long period of joblessness return to the ranks of the unemployed within a year. In addition, a past Gallup study found that employees who have been diagnosed with depression miss about 68 million more days per year than those with no such diagnosis, costing employers an estimated $23 billion annually.

Based on their research, the study's authors said policymakers must design new interventions to reduce the severity of the effects of long-term unemployment. They say programs geared toward helping American job seekers maintain psychological, physical and social aspects of well-being over the course of their job search may help these individuals to re-enter the workforce ready to be as productive as they were when they left.

The study was based on surveys of 356,599 Americans, including 18,322 unemployed adults.

Originally published on Business News Daily