Mental Health

Impact of Unemployment on Mental Health

unemployment mental health Posted On
Posted By Alex Perez - Mental Health Writer, B.A.

Article written in collaboration with Nancy Diaz, MSW. Mental health counselor and the founder of Global Citizen Therapy

Unemployment and Mental Health

It is well known that unemployed people have worse mental health than their employed counterparts (Kasl SV, Jones BA, 2000). During economic crises, suicide rates usually rise, and unemployment is associated with unhappiness, depression, substance abuse, and a long list of impacts on people. (1)

Those at the most risk for mental health challenges after a job loss are those for whom unemployment is an immediate threat to survival. People with fewer financial resources and those who perceive more financial strain from unemployment are less satisfied with their lives, according to a meta-analysis led by Frances McKee-Ryan, Ph.D., a professor of management at the University of Nevada, Reno (Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol. 90, No. 1, 2005).

Unemployment

unemployment

Population below poverty line

population below poverty line

Age-standardized suicide rates

suicide rates worldwide

10 Countries with the highest crude suicide rate

countries with highest suicide rate

Overview

COUNTRY% POP. BELOW POVERTY LINEUNEMPLOYMENT %CRUDE SUICIDE RATE PER 100,000 DEPRESSION %ANXIETY %
Lesotho5724,492,40214,8%3,1%
Guyana3513,4637,32744,5%5,7%
Eswatini58,923,4435,0677N/AN/A
Lithuania22,29,1234,85855,6%3,2%
Russian Federation13,35,5732,04825,5%3,1%
Kiribati259,329,72833,1%3,2%
South Korea14,44,77284,10%3,80%
Suriname707,2224,76174,8%5,8%
South Africa16,625,1524,5224,6%3,4%
Belarus5,75,9124,33135,6%3,2%
Kazakhstan2,64,9323,24474,4%3,3%
Ukraine3,89,1421,62126,3%3,2%
Latvia25,59,8721,59674,9%3,2%
Slovenia13,98,9621,04075,1%3,8%
Montenegro8,617,5420,71514,8%3,8%
Mongolia29,64,8620,00534,2%3,3%
Hungary14,96,8119,94255,1%3,9%
Japan16,13,419,13364,2%3,1%
Botswana19,317,7119,0454,7%3,1%
Uruguay9,77,4918,64315,0%6,4%
Belgium15,18,4818,59864,8%4,7%
Vanuatu12,71,8118,16583,1%3,2%
Zimbabwe72,35,2917,95584,0%2,8%
Croatia19,516,1817,60535,1%3,8%
Serbia8,917,6616,35555,0%3,8%
Austria35,7215,99575,1%4,9%
Estonia21,16,1915,88925,9%3,2%
Poland17,67,515,85315,1%3,9%
France14,210,3515,83834,8%6,2%
Sweden157,4315,73184,9%4,8%
Sri Lanka6,74,5215,16164,1%3,4%
Switzerland6,64,814,96385,0%4,9%
Central African Republic624,314,44314,2%3,0%
Cabo Verde3011,914,41294,9%3,1%
United States15,15,2814,39915,9%6,3%
Iceland93,9814,25714,1%4,9%
Finland12,39,3814,03165,6%3,2%
Cuba262,414,03145,5%6,1%
Mozambique46,13,4313,90924,1%3,0%
Czech Republic9,75,0513,56995,2%3,8%
Germany16,74,6213,26675,2%5,8%
Australia13,26,0513,22495,9%7,0%
Portugal1912,4413,20745,7%4,9%
Canada9,46,9112,99324,7%4,9%
Samoa18,88,6612,65753,2%3,3%
Norway0,54,312,45834,7%7,4%
Slovak Republic12,311,4812,41125,1%3,9%
India21,95,5612,27154,5%3,0%
Luxembourg18,36,6712,17495,0%4,9%
Netherlands8,86,8711,78184,7%6,4%
New Zealand155,3511,72025,4%7,3%
Eritrea506,6611,64754,3%3,1%
Namibia28,720,8911,64214,4%3,1%
Romania22,46,8111,51385,0%3,7%
Bosnia and Herzegovina16,927,6910,71075,1%3,8%
Georgia9,216,5110,53035,0%3,5%
Korea, Dem. People’s Rep.602,8310,50143,7%3,7%
Trinidad and Tobago202,4310,20015,2%6,1%
Haiti58,513,9510,03734,3%5,5%
Cote d’Ivoire39,53,110,00223,8%2,7%
Chile14,46,519,975,0%6,5%
Kyrgyz Republic32,17,569,894,1%3,2%
Bulgaria23,49,149,835,2%4,0%
Equatorial Guinea448,319,784,2%2,9%
Togo55,12,29,713,9%2,8%
Gabon34,320,229,644,3%3,0%
Cameroon303,519,463,9%2,7%
Fiji314,369,393,5%3,3%
Ireland8,29,919,314,8%6,3%
North Macedonia21,526,079,175,0%3,9%
Uzbekistan145,29,164,2%3,3%
Djibouti2311,399,025,1%3,3%
SingaporeN/A3,798,994,6%3,6%
Pakistan29,53,578,974,2%3,5%
United Kingdom155,38,824,5%4,2%
Ecuador21,53,628,794,6%5,6%
Zambia54,410,18,724,0%3,0%
St. Lucia20,320,678,654,9%5,9%
Nepal25,23,18,523,2%3,6%
Argentina25,77,618,34,7%6,3%
China3,34,68,134,2%3,1%
Benin36,22,578,063,9%2,7%
Thailand7,20,68,044,4%3,5%
Solomon Islands12,70,678,022,9%3,1%
Somalia7313,257,994,0%2,9%
Burkina Faso40,16,047,963,6%2,7%
Mauritius87,417,944,4%3,5%
Spain21,122,067,95,2%4,1%
Vietnam81,857,664,0%2,2%
Morocco159,467,44,5%4,5%
BahrainN/A1,327,394,8%4,3%
Ghana24,26,817,314,2%2,8%
Guinea-Bissau673,017,254,0%2,8%
Malta16,35,387,185,1%4,9%
Guinea474,387,173,9%2,7%
Italy29,911,97,135,1%5,0%
El Salvador32,746,944,4%4,6%
Congo, Dem. Rep.639,96,793,8%2,8%
Chad46,71,876,783,5%2,6%
Costa Rica21,796,734,7%4,6%
Congo, Rep.46,54,46,613,9%2,8%
Angola36,67,266,473,6%2,8%
United Arab Emirates19,51,746,475,1%4,1%
Burundi64,61,556,444,2%3,0%
Bolivia38,63,076,384,4%5,4%
Dominican Republic30,57,616,374,7%5,7%
Senegal46,76,766,363,9%2,7%
Saudi Arabia12,75,596,344,5%4,3%
Iran, Islamic Rep.18,711,066,324,9%4,6%
Turkmenistan0,23,946,294,2%3,4%
Malawi50,75,856,194,1%3,0%
Armenia3218,266,155,0%3,5%
Qatar00,176,115,1%4,2%
Belize417,585,974,4%5,7%
Sierra Leone70,24,645,883,9%2,8%
Brazil4,28,435,875,8%9,3%
Guatemala59,32,515,833,7%4,2%
Paraguay22,24,565,735,2%7,6%
Rwanda39,11,145,723,8%3,2%
Lao PDR220,695,593,2%3,1%
Mexico46,24,315,564,2%3,6%
Libya3318,875,564,5%4,5%
Ethiopia29,62,25,524,7%3,3%
Yemen, Rep.5413,45,513,6%4,1%
Comoros44,88,095,514,4%3,1%
Madagascar70,71,795,484,4%3,1%
Kenya36,12,85,464,4%3,1%
Niger45,40,525,373,4%2,5%
Gambia, The48,49,35,073,9%2,7%
Cambodia16,50,395,063,4%3,2%
Greece3624,95,045,7%4,9%
OmanN/A 3,325,024,7%4,1%
Malaysia3,83,14,833,8%4,9%
Albania14,317,194,764,8%3,8%
CyprusN/A14,914,75,1%5,1%
Uganda21,41,864,674,6%2,8%
Tonga22,52,644,63,2%3,3%
Israel225,254,544,6%2,8%
Liberia54,12,084,493,5%2,7%
Bhutan122,454,494,2%3,7%
Mali36,17,734,283,6%2,6%
Nicaragua29,64,74,234,2%4,5%
Tanzania22,82,14,164,1%3,0%
Tajikistan31,57,534,133,8%3,1%
Colombia288,34,134,7%5,8%
Iraq2310,724,073,7%4,5%
Azerbaijan4,94,964,074,6%3,4%
Honduras29,66,154,024,0%4,3%
Afghanistan54,511,393,973,3%4,0%
Sudan46,517,293,883,6%4,1%
Nigeria704,313,693,9%2,7%
South Sudan6612,453,594,4%3,1%
Timor-Leste41,84,453,513,0%2,9%
Bahamas, The9,3123,465,2%6,2%
Bangladesh24,34,383,414,1%4,4%
Egypt, Arab Rep.27,813,053,283,5%4,2%
St. Vincent and the Grenadines30,219,163,254,9%5,8%
Myanmar25,60,773,183,7%3,3%
Tunisia15,515,163,144,9%4,6%
Mauritania3110,223,034,1%2,8%
Papua New Guinea372,562,953,0%3,2%
Panama2332,94,4%4,5%
Lebanon28,66,312,794,7%5,5%
Maldives155,672,793,7%3,3%
Peru22,72,922,714,8%5,7%
Algeria2311,212,684,5%4,5%
KuwaitN/A2,22,565,0%4,6%
Indonesia10,94,512,363,7%3,3%
Philippines21,63,072,273,3%3,1%
Turkey21,910,242,264,4%4,0%
Venezuela, RB19,77,442,254,2%4,4%
Jamaica17,113,512,24,8%5,7%
Brunei Darussalam57,691,884,0%3,6%
Syrian Arab Republic82,58,51,743,9%4,3%
Sao Tome and Principe66,213,461,463,9%2,7%
Jordan14,213,081,464,0%4,3%
Barbados13,911,350,6015,4%6,1%

Unemployment, especially sudden or unexpected unemployment, can throw people into survival mode. Once in survival mode, our instincts are to fight, flee, freeze, or fawn.

As you can imagine, fighting in this situation is a way of not giving up. This could look like dealing with the bureaucracy of the unemployment system, looking for another job, starting a business, or trying to get an old job back.

Fleeing in this case could look like avoidance through denial, alcoholism or substance abuse, or ignoring bills.

Freezing when dealing with unemployment could show up as depressive states where you might lie in bed for days without wanting to move.

Fawning is a strategy of doing everything we can to please someone who does not have our best interests at heart. This can present in your relationship with a loved one where you overcompensate for being unemployed by leaving the house spotless and receiving no appreciation or you do favors for a toxic ex-boss even if you no longer work for the company.

What to do about it

Don’t be so hard on yourself.

Forgive yourself if you made a mistake that led to you being fired. If you were simply laid off, remind yourself that it was not your fault.

Shift your mindset.

One way to do this is by beginning to focus on gratitude. Once you are able to see everything you still have in front of you to be grateful for, it will be easier to find your strengths, motivation, and self worth again. Embrace the gift of time you have been given. Most of us spend the majority of our days working. This is why you may be uncomfortable with all of the free time you have. Learn to make the most of it.

Establish a healthy routine

Build strong healthy habits by setting up a routine for yourself. Think about what it is that you enjoy doing that you possibly have not had time for when you were working. Try including things in your routine that will boost your mental wellbeing such as exercise, nature walks, journaling, meditating, and eating balanced meals.

Do not focus only on securing employment

This is the hardest part when you are in survival mode and it will be really tempting to focus all of your time on applying for jobs or securing income. Of course, you should spend time doing this. However, you need to be careful to balance your days with other self care activities that will allow you to take a break and come back to the task fresh. If you do not do this, you will be more likely to burn out.

Be mindful of screen time

In this day and age, a lot of job applications and unemployment forms are all online. This makes it easy for us to spend hours in front of the computer or scrolling through jobs on social media. Make sure to schedule in screen breaks even if it means just resting your eyes for a few minutes to step away and stretch.

Conclusion

“The bottom line is people need to eat. They need to have shelter. They need to have health care,” says David Blustein, PhD, a professor of counseling, developmental and educational psychology at Boston College. (2)

Unemployment can have a negative impact and may lead to impaired mental health of the working-age population. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs tells us that without being able to meet these basic needs, we are not able to focus on self improvement and achieve self actualization.So again, do not be too hard on yourself if your mental health has taken a dip since being unemployed. Follow the tips above and let us know in the comments if they are helpful.


  1. https://observatoriosociallacaixa.org/en/-/el-desempleo-dana-la-salud-mental#:~:text=It%20is%20well%20known%20that,list%20of%20impacts%20on%20people.
  2. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2020/10/toll-job-loss
  3. https://data.un.org/_Docs/SYB/PDFs/SYB63_329_202009_Labour%20Force%20and%20Unemployment.pdf
  4. Https://apps.who.int/gho/data/node.sdg.3-4-data?lang=en
  5. https://www.who.int/data/gho/data/indicators/indicator-details/GHO/crude-suicide-rates-(per-100-000-population)
  6. https://databank.worldbank.org/reports.aspx?source=2&series=SL.UEM.TOTL.ZS&country=#
  7. https://www.indexmundi.com/g/r.aspx?c=by&v=69
  8. https://www.who.int/phe/health_topics/outdoorair/databases/country_grouping_2016.pdf

Institute of Work and Health, Canada: Unemployment and Health

Mentalhealth.org.uk: Mental Health Foundation warns of “profound effect” of unemployment on public mental health

Health.org.uk: Unemployment and mental health

Observatoriosociallacaixa.org: Does unemployment harm mental health?

US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health: Influence of Unemployment on Mental Health of the Working Age Population

Beyondblue.org.au: Unmeployment and Mental Health

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