March 20, 2017
Losing a job creates a ‘new normal’ for personal wellbeing that never goes back to previous levels, a new international study claims. Unemployment is damaging to people’s wellbeing regardless of their age, gender, level of education, ethnicity or region. The new study, co-authored by the What Works Centre for Wellbeing and the University of East Anglia, looked at the impact of unemployment across a number of countries and found that joblessness tops even divorce or widowhood in its impact on our life satisfaction. The evidence also suggests people never adapt fully to unemployment. The longitudinal study of 24,000 people found on average that individuals had lower life satisfaction following unemployment and this never recovered to the pre-unemployment levels. These results applied to men and women, but the effects were found to be stronger for men. Men also were found to be happier than women once in a new job. The type of work is also important with temporary jobs proving worse than permanent work.
The research also showed the following factors improve unemployed people’s wellbeing:
- Social support. Those who can rely on social support from family and friends suffer less.
- Personality. Extroverts suffer less but conscientious individuals suffer more.
- Employability. Those with skills or who are more adaptable suffer less.
- Other people being unemployed. In the UK, there may be less stigma associated with unemployment where the local unemployment rate is higher, and this results in a smaller the reduction in wellbeing from being unemployed.
Nancy Hey, Director of the What Works Centre for Wellbeing, said: “We know work is an important part of what helps us thrive, even beyond its importance as a source of income. It gives us a sense of identity and place in our community. This evidence helps us understand the potentially scarring effects, especially of the long-term unemployed.”
Professor Sara Connolly, of the University of East Anglia and a co-author of the study, commented: “Unemployment is very damaging for wellbeing whether you are a man, women, well or poorly educated, and whilst wellbeing improves upon re-employment this effect does reflect the quality of the job”