Unemployed Americans Are Nearly Twice as Likely to Be Depressed as Americans With Jobs

And it’s even worse for the long-term unemployed.

National Journal
Matt Berman
June 9, 2014, 10:36 a.m.

Here’s some more rough news about Amer­ica’s un­em­ployed: The longer Amer­ic­ans are out of work, the great­er the risk that they will be­come de­pressed.

That’s ac­cord­ing to new data re­leased from Gal­lup from a year­long sur­vey of 356,599 Amer­ic­ans. The risk of de­pres­sion gets es­pe­cially severe at un­em­ploy­ment’s high end:

While the total in­cid­ence of de­pres­sion for all un­em­ployed people (12.4 per­cent) is nearly twice that of all em­ployed people (6.4 per­cent), it’s even grim­mer for Amer­ic­ans who have been out of work for months. The long-term un­em­ployed — people who have been out of a job for at least 27 weeks — are nearly three times as likely to be de­pressed than people who are work­ing:

This isn’t just about feel­ing glum. As the Amer­ic­an Psy­cho­lo­gic­al As­so­ci­ation points out, the un­em­ployed are more than twice as likely as those with jobs to be not just de­pressed, but also to suf­fer from “anxi­ety, py­scho­so­mat­ic symp­toms, low sub­ject­ive well-be­ing and poor self-es­teem.” 

Emo­tion­al de­pres­sion has a siz­able im­pact on the broad­er eco­nomy. A 2003 study in the Journ­al of Clin­ic­al Psy­cho­logy found that de­pres­sion costs the U.S. eco­nomy tens of bil­lions of dol­lars an­nu­ally, in part be­cause of “dir­ect treat­ment costs, lost earn­ings due to de­pres­sion-re­lated sui­cides, and in­dir­ect work­place costs.” The costs could be par­tic­u­larly high now, es­pe­cially when you keep in mind that the num­ber of long-term un­em­ployed Amer­ic­ans was at 3.4 mil­lion in May, nearly un­changed from April. That group makes up 34.6 per­cent of all un­em­ployed Amer­ic­ans.

With Con­gress still try­ing to fig­ure out un­em­ploy­ment-in­sur­ance ex­ten­sions, it’s hard to see this pic­ture get­ting any ro­si­er too soon. But hey, it’s not just the un­em­ployed who suf­fer: As a 2013 Gal­lup sur­vey found, de­pres­sion has a big im­pact on the lives of em­ployed work­ers, too.

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