As the job market rises, the feeling of a happy life may also rise

Key points

  • According to recent statistics, the unemployment rate continues to fall. This is essential for mental health, because employment can be a protective factor.
  • However, the negative impact of unemployment on mental health may be long-lasting, and unemployment is related to lower life satisfaction.
  • Unemployment increases the risk of encountering mental health problems, but planning and support may lead to better results.

Employment growth statistics show that the US economy added 1 million jobs in July. Only 235,000 jobs were added in August, which is about half of this year’s monthly average. Nonetheless, these new positions helped the unemployment rate continue to fall to 5.2% in August. Despite the low overall unemployment rate, some people—especially those who have experienced marginalization—are still struggling with job insecurity and unemployment.

According to reports, 5.6 million people lost their jobs because their employers closed or lost their businesses due to the pandemic, an increase of 400,000 from July. Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians still have higher unemployment rates than whites, and no data is reported on other marginalized experiences, such as queer status.

A report recently released by the Mental Health Foundation, a British non-profit organization, explained that unemployment is related to negative mental health outcomes for adults, and pointed out that many people lack the practical help and mental health support they need to get through this difficult period. , The negative impact of unemployment may last for several years after returning to work, and unemployment will lead to a decrease in life satisfaction.

Unstable work has a negative impact on mental health

For many people in the United States, unemployment will cause health insurance to lapse, which will affect whether and how they choose to seek medical care and limit access to mental health support. Unemployment is related to increased risk of suicide and various other psychological problems. During the pandemic, the isolation and uncertainty of the world have led to an increase in mental health problems, but many people have no way to get help.

COVID-19 and Delta variants have created unknowns about the future and confusion about health and safety, making all aspects of life feel unstable, and unemployment will only increase stress. Samara Fritzsche, MSW, LSW, is a career consultant for JEVS Human Services, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people find meaningful jobs. She said: “Unemployment affects every aspect of a person’s life.”

Unemployment disrupts daily life and reduces social opportunities, leading to greater isolation during pandemic lockdowns and social distancing. Some people associate unemployment with loneliness and point out that they rely on the workplace for social support.

Samara Fritzsche, MSW, LSW

The daily structure of unemployment and the lack of continuous interaction with other people can cause anyone, regardless of their living conditions, to feel isolated and depressed.

— Samara Fritzsche, MSW, LSW

Many people report that they lack daily resources after losing their jobs, point out that housing insecurity is the impact of lost wages, and explain that loans or credit card debt are the only options for paying bills and rent. This is an even more daunting challenge for those trying to care for family members and children.

In addition to these practical restrictions, unemployment can be an existential crisis. Many people report that unemployment leads to a lack of purpose and describe this experience as a “loss.” 25% of people call it “trauma”. Even if there is only one unemployment experience in 20 years, life satisfaction will decrease, and repeated unemployment will have a lasting impact.

Even work insecurity is associated with an increase in depression and painful symptoms, and at the same time has a negative impact on self-esteem. Workers who experience job insecurity (those who have a job but feel that their position is unstable or safe) are usually marginalized people.

Coping with unemployment

Response capabilities are affected by the ability to rely on personal security, access to support networks, and plan for the future.

According to data from the Mental Health Foundation, 42% of people in the lowest income bracket said they lack the support they need during unemployment. Those who were formerly self-employed have encountered additional burdens because they are often unable to obtain the protection and assistance that others seek. The gig economy is a core aspect of many people’s sources of income, and some people can only get assistance related to part of their income loss.

The unemployed pointed out that they need help with tangible tasks (such as paperwork and job hunting), which can be difficult, time-consuming, and stressful. The Mental Health Foundation emphasizes the need to give people better exposure to interpersonal interactions during these processes, which are usually online now, but point out that guides and lists of resources (such as comprehensive road maps) are useful for those who don’t know where to start. Helplines where volunteers or professionals can provide specific services may be useful.

The community should consider providing mental health support to the unemployed in a more specific way, because they may have different concerns and needs than those dealing with other mental health problems, and often do not know how or where to seek help.

The report also pointed out the importance of addressing the needs of those experiencing job insecurity, because creating job opportunities does not necessarily mean job stability or workers’ access to the resources needed to protect their mental health. This highlights the need to create more resources and remove obstacles as a whole.

Seeking new positions

The pandemic continues to prevent 1.5 million people from looking for work, and for statistical purposes, they are not counted as “unemployed” by federal standards. In August, only 13.4% of the workforce had remote work positions related to the pandemic. But more people seek these safer options. Fritzsche said that many people believe that workplaces in their industry are not safe—especially those that do client-facing or hospitality work.

Ariel Lopez is a career coach and co-founder of Knac, a recruitment platform that aims to humanize the recruitment and application process by improving the fairness and transparency of the recruitment and application process. She said people are considering health risks and their values, and redefining their priority in finding jobs. She pointed out that gig workers or freelancers can pay similar wages to traditional opportunities, but may require less risk. For some people, this sense of control is more important than the stability of traditional roles.

Ariel Lopez, CEO and Founder of Knac

COVID-19 has caused many people to rethink what their jobs are like.

— Ariel Lopez, CEO and Founder of Knac

Lopez said job seekers are more capable of rethinking priorities, and they are now more likely to consider work-life balance and mental health. She said: “We live in a capitalist society, and many people define their value and identity by what they do or their productivity,” she added, adding that the pandemic has changed the way of cultural thinking and advocated for people to satisfy them. The demand creates space.

Lopez pointed out that applicants have the upper hand in negotiating wages and benefits, stressing that they should not be afraid to ask for benefits that support their mental health. She emphasized that people with marginalized identities should seek compensation that can close the wage gap and compare job opportunities, but they should also consider how to grow within the company and hold positions where they are genuinely interested in diverse leadership.

Providing livable wages, working environment with influence and flexibility, providing development opportunities and adequate working conditions are protective factors of mental health. This kind of work can add meaning to life and help a person’s sense of identity.

For some, it may be helpful to redefine unemployment as the time to reflect and readjust before seeking new opportunities. Fritzsche said to consider the cost of new training, and suggested thinking creatively about how to transfer existing skills to new industries.

Fritzsche said that blanks on resumes can make candidates feel frustrated and anxious, and admits that mistakes at work can lead to fewer offers. She suggests using other relevant experiences to fill these gaps, such as volunteering, community involvement and caregiving roles, including family management and parenthood. She emphasized that even family-related responsibilities are important and valuable skills.

Fritzsche added that refusal may cause mental health problems for those motivated people who have not received the invitation. She said that career counselors will remind applicants of their strengths and encourage them throughout the process. They will also assist with resume development, interview preparation, networking and negotiation. Those who work as social workers can help find resources to meet daily needs and protect mental health.

What this means to you

During unemployment, it is important to build tangible support by seeking practical help when needed. Don’t be afraid to ask for help for tasks or mental health. The community should work to resolve the gap in services provided to the unemployed and reduce the impact of additional isolation. With the right intervention, unemployment can be dealt with, and time can even be used to reassess needs or goals to find a more satisfactory path forward.