Unemployment increases the risk of depression

Work is a very important pillar of human existence. Should this pillar collapse and unemployment settle in its place, the risk of succumbing to a mental illness, such as depression, increases greatly. However, such illnesses are often not acknowledged.

In November 2014, the unemployment rate in the European Union was 10%, whereby the highest rates were to be found in Greece and in Spain, with rates as high as 25.7% and 23.9& respectively.

Unemployment: a big breach in one’s life

Such numbers however do not say much about the way people are dealing with being unemployed. However, not all people are affected the same way by unemployment. Government assistance varies from country to country, and some people do not loose their hope when finding themselves in a situation of unemployment – they see this rather as a chance for a new beginning. For a great number of people however, it represents a big breach, which then may lead to a state of mental instability, such as depression.

Work at the core of one’s life

The reason for the problems that are caused by unemployment is to be found in our attitude towards work. In ancient times, work was scorned. During the Middle Ages, work was still considered as a hardship, even as an actual punishment. Only much later, the so-called Protestant work ethics started to establish itself, which was characterized by the concept of work as an obligation and as being at the center of existence, around which free time needed to find its place.

Until today, this concept is still perceived as the basic model, even though it has evolved greatly. Nowadays, work needs not be an obligation and serve the only purpose of being a breadwinner. It can be fulfilled with passion and can provide for fun and satisfaction. It can be exciting and challenging. Working-time models now enable more flexibility. Also, enterprises and employers are becoming increasingly a part of the social life of their employees.

When the social environment breaks away

The requirement that people looking for work should be ready to change the place where they live for a new work position may also have a negative impact on mental health. “Especially when the person has a family, this can represent a substantial problem”, explains Mrs. Mohr. “With each move, one looses his social environment and needs to build a new one. However, a good social network is especially important for unemployed people. It can help them to find a new work position.”

Rejection weakens self-esteem

Mrs. Mohr explains that the requirement to send as many applications as possible within a defined period of time is also not conductive. When such requirements are not fulfilled, benefit reductions can ensue. However, Mrs. Mohr observed that sending many applications do not necessarily improve the chances of finding work. Indeed, many unsuccessful applications can undermine mental health. Each rejection or negative answer is perceived as a failure and weakens self-esteem.

Mental illnesses are often not identified

There are a whole lot of reasons that can lead to depression for an unemployed person. However, the symptoms are often not identified or acknowledged. A research has shown that about half of the women and none of the men who had depressive symptoms were in therapy. According to Mrs. Mohr, this is related to the conception many people have about unemployed people: “If they are perceived as being lazy, their lack of motivation is seen as a sign of this laziness, and the illness goes unnoticed.”  

Text: Patrick Gunti – 04/2012 / 03/2014
Translation: MyH – 04/2015
Photos: Pixabay.com