Friday, December 17, 2010

Job losses and mental health - could they be less damaging than feared?

The economic downturn affecting large parts of the Western world has brought lots of job losses with it but new research from the New York University School of Medicine suggests that they may not have the effects on people's mental health that are sometimes feared. The researchers used data from 774 people in Germany who had been made redundant. The participants were taking part in the German Socioeconomic Panel Data study which collected information between 1984 and 2003. This allowed the researchers to collect data about the participants' happiness in the three years before they were made redundant and for four years afterwards. 69% had high and stable levels of life satisfaction before they lost their jobs. This group were more likely to be harder hit by being laid off but a year later their average life satisfaction had returned to pre-job-loss levels, even though this group was no more likely to get another job by the end of the study. 15% of the participants had actually been getting happier before being made redundant and this group showed only a levelling off of their happiness after losing their jobs. 13% were unhappy before losing work and their levels of happiness also stayed the same after getting laid off. 4% of people were becoming unhappier even before they lost their jobs. These people became even unhappier after they became unemployed but their happiness started rising again - albeit not to their original levels - by the third year of the study; this group was the least likely to be re-employed. Germany's economy is doing much better than many other European countries, however, and it has a reasonably generous welfare system so it would be interesting to see whether this research held true for other countries.

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