Motivation and emotion/Book/2022/Unemployment and mental health

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Unemployment and mental health:
What is the relationship between unemployment and mental health?

Overview[edit | edit source]

Individuals that[grammar?] are unemployed in Australia are defined as "currently without work, but actively seeking employment". Unemployment is becoming increasingly higher, with the unemployment rate in Australia currently sitting at 3.4% in 2022 (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2014). It can have detrimental effects on an individuals[grammar?] physical, mental, and emotional health. This chapter discusses the relationship between unemployment and mental health, and how unemployment causes the onset of mental health disorders. Learned Helplessness, Psychosocial Theory, and attribution theory will be discussed to understand the negative impacts of unemployment on the unemployed population.

Focus questions:

  • What is mental health?
  • What is unemployment?
  • What is the relationship between unemployment and mental health?

Mental Health[edit | edit source]

[Provide more detail]

What is mental Health?[edit | edit source]

Figure 1. Mental Health. "Is this me?"

Mental health is an important aspect of general well-being and happiness. A clinically diagnosable ailment that severely impairs an individual's cognitive, emotional, or social capacities is referred to as a mental illness (Barkham et al., 2019). Such disorders may be diagnosed by a mental health professional, usually a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist (Newman et al., 1996). In 2021, it was calculated that 19.6 million Australians aged between 16-85 year; two in five (43.7% or 8.6 million people) had experienced a mental disorder at some time in their life (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2014). One in five people (21.4% or 4.2 million people) had a 12-month mental disorder (sufficient symptoms of disorder 12 month duration prior to survey) (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2014). Any mental health disorder can cause a negative impact on employment (Sharac et al., 2010).

Most diagnosable mental health disorders[edit | edit source]

According the Australian Bureau of Statistics, depression, anxiety and bipolar are the top three diagnosed disorders in Australia:

  • Depression: One in ten people (10.4%) had depression or feelings of depression, an increase from 8.9% in 2014-15. However, COVID-19 has increased depression rates by 25% in 2022.
  • Anxiety: In 2020-21 it was identified that 16.8% (3.3 million people) had a 12-month Anxiety disorder, and females were more likely than males to have had a 12-month Anxiety disorder (21.0% compared to 12.4%).
  • Bipolar: In 2021-2022, 7.5% of people aged 16-85 years (1.5 million people) had a 12-month Affective disorder.

Unemployment[edit | edit source]

[Provide more detail]

What is unemployment?[edit | edit source]

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) defines an unemployed individual as one who is not employed for one hour or more during a given reference period, is actively seeking employment, and is currently available for work (Australian Bureau Of Statistics, 2022). The current unemployment rate sits at 3.4%, last recorded in July 2022 (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2014). There are many negative factors that contribute to unemployment including; mental health, lack of knowledge, burnout, discrimination, and health implications. However, some individual's voluntarily choose to be unemployed due to family responsibilities, disability, health implications, and retirement[factual?].

The study conducted by Haque & Haque, (2022) demonstrate that the unemployment rate for non-English-speaking migrant women (7.2%) is significantly higher than the percentage of women born in Australia (5.1%). The lack of non-English speaking causes unemployment because they are unable to meet companies skill requirement (language).

The relationship between unemployment and mental health[edit | edit source]

Figure 2. Learned Helplessness Theory.

Since the Great Depression, psychologists (Eisenberg and Lazarsfield 1938) and sociologists (Jahoda et al. 1933) have emphasised that unemployment affects both emotional health and social structure. Psychologists conceptualise involuntary joblessness and mental health in a variety of ways, including: insufficient psychosocial development (Erikson 1959), feeling of helplessness produced by a perceived lack of control (Seligman 1975), and failure to acquire the nonmonetary rewards of labour (Warr 1987).

Learned Helplessness[edit | edit source]

Learned Helplessness is equivalent to a chance locus of control orientation, meaning the belief that one's results are attributable to fate, luck, or chance. Helplessness beliefs could be universal (i.e., there is nothing anyone can do) or personal (i.e., there is nothing that I can do). Helplessness perception is correlated with motivational, behavioural, and/or emotional deficiencies (Alloy et al., 1984). Individuals who have learned helplessness are less likely to learn or engage in new, potentially beneficial actions, and they experience higher than average levels of anxiety and depression than individuals that have non-learned helplessness (Klein et al., 1976). In relation to employment, Seligman's claims that feeling of "helplessness" emerge when one individual believes they have little control over crucial factors in their lives, such as obtaining meaningful employment. It is founded that persistent helplessness can result in depression (Klein et al., 1976).

[Add an APA style table caption]

It is likely to be associated with: Description:
Age: The older one becomes, the more probable it is that they may endure role changes or loss, as well as physical deterioration. Living at a facility is also associated with learned helplessness (Foy & Mitchell, 1990).
Stress: Increase in stress related factors (i.e., employment-related, poverty-related, health-related) increases helplessness (Brown, Seyler, Knorr, Garnett, & Laurenceau, 2016).
Anxiety: Increase in worry and anxiety-related factors increases helplessness and higher levels of anxiety than average level of general population (Raufelder, Regner, & Wood, 2018).
It is most likely to promote: Description:
Health symptoms: Learned helplessness can conclude to the causation of negative health symptoms (both physically and mentally), including development of negative emotions (Nowicka-Sauer, Hajduk, Kujawska-Danecka, Banaszkiewicz, Czuszyńska, Smoleńska, & Siebert, 2017).
Maladaptive perfectionism: Setting unreasonable standards in combination with severe self-criticism and poor self-esteem is detrimental.
Exhaustion: Development of exhaustion (both physically and mentally), burn-out, and cynicism.
Aggravation: Increased symptoms in people who suffer from depression, anxiety, and phobia's (Cherry, 2017).

Table 1 explains the causation of helplessness and the impact on an individual's life physically, mentally, and emotionally. It has been scientifically proven that stress and anxiety related factors such as unemployment, financial status, and health-related can associate onset of helplessness (Raufelder, Regner, & Wood, 2018). Helplessness and stress related feelings can increase symptom's[grammar?] of individuals who suffer from a disorder (Cherry, 2017) which can result in the consumption of alcohol and narcotics to self-medicate the symptoms of mental health disorders. People regularly abuse alcohol or drugs to alleviate the symptoms, to manage emotional pain, or to alter their mood momentarily. Unfortunately, self-medicating with drugs or alcohol has negative side effects and often exacerbate the problems it was intended to alleviate (Kamerow, 1986). Furthermore, maladaptive perfectionism, negative health symptom's, exhaustion, low locus of control, and low self-efficacy are causations of helplessness that can result in unemployment to any individual suffering.

Psychosocial Theory and Unemployment[edit | edit source]

Fun Fact

Erikson, a student of Freud, incorporated three stages of adult development and emphasised the significance of culture in parenting methods and motives to his theory of psychosexual development (Erikson, 1950; 1968).

Erikson claimed that we are conscious of our motivations throughout life and that the ego provides a larger role in directing our behaviour than the id. We make purposeful decisions in life that are more concerned with addressing specific social and cultural requirements than exclusively biological ones (Adams-Price & Greene, 1990). Humans are driven, for example, by the need to believe that the world is a dependable place, that we are competent individuals who can contribute to society, and that our lives have been worthwhile. All of these issues are psychological. Erikson's theory is founded on what he calls the epigenetic principle, which claims that our environment and cultural surroundings have an impact on how we go through certain present phases as our personalities emerge over time. The phases of psychosocial development include how this biological unfolding occurs in connection to our sociocultural environments, and how progress through each stage is in part dictated by our success, or lack of success, in all the prior stages (Maree, 2021).

Figure 3. Figure table explaining the stages of each age.

The 8 stages:

1. Trust VS Mistrust (Hope)

2. Autonomy vs. Shame (Will)

3.Initiative vs. Guilt (Purpose)

4.Industry vs. Inferiority (Competence)

5.Identity vs. Role Confusion (Fidelity)

6.Intimacy vs. Isolation (Love)

7.Generativity vs. Stagnation (Care)

8.Integrity vs. Despair (Wisdom)

Weaknesses of Erikson’s theory and the affects of employed and unemployment[edit | edit source]

Crisis situations might emerge repeatedly or at different points in life. One may struggle with a lack of trust well into adulthood (Maree, 2021), for instance. Erikson's theory has drawn criticism for emphasising phases so extensively and supposing that each stage must be completed before the subsequent development crises may occur. His idea also emphasises the social norms that are present in certain cultures but not in others (Adams-Price & Greene, 1990). For instance, the notion that adolescence is a period of identity exploration may be more easily translated into the middle-class culture of the Western population than it is in cultures where the rites of passage that mark the transition into adulthood coincide with puberty and where adult roles are more limited (Adams-Price & Greene, 1990). Erikson also established that for an individual to have a healthy personality and emotional development during adulthood, they must think they are taking steps to better themselves by giving back to their family and community. If not, losing one's sense of self-worth while unemployed can cause anxiety and self-doubt (Douvan, 1997).

Using several measures of work quality and mental health, analysis of data from a longitudinal national household panel, the survey revealed that employment with poor psycho-social characteristics were no better than being unemployed, and in some cases considerably worse (Butterworth et al. 2011)[Provide more detail]. Previous research also shown a linear relationship between job satisfaction and mental health, demonstrating that as the number of psychosocial employment challenges grew, so did levels of depression and anxiety (Mark & Smith, 2012)[Provide more detail]. There should be an improvement in employees' mental health and a decrease in the burden of sickness as a result of better psychosocial work conditions, which include lowering workload pressures and raising job control, security, and esteem (Douvan, 1997)[Provide more detail].

Unemployment, Attribution Theory and Mental Health[edit | edit source]

Although causal attributions have generally been researched in connection to psychological well-being, their relevance of impact on unemployment in particular has received less research. In contrast to unstable attributions, stable attributions diminish expectations of future success and enhance the chronicity of helplessness in regard to a certain situation (Wortman & Dintzer, 1978). Significant clinical research indicates a strong relationship between internal, stable, and global attributions and negative outcomes and depression (Fresco, Alloy, & Harrington,2006) Meaning that people are more inclined to get depressed if they think they are the cause of their problem[grammar?] (Klein et al., 1976).


"The unemployed may believe themselves powerless to change the circumstances of their lives (external locus) but the fact that they are without work whereas others are not and that they remain so, may lead them eventually to see themselves responsible for their condition (internal attribution) with con-sequent self-blame and self-derogation." Ross M. Gurney, (1980)

Several of the most significant studies on the link between mental and physical illness and unemployment has focused on youth population[factual?]. Various studies focused on emotional, social, and mental adjustment of employed and unemployed school-leavers[factual?]. Warr and colleagues conducted a longitudinal study by interviewing two cohorts of recent school leavers over a two-year period. Measures of psychological stress and self-esteem were shown to be associated to the duration of unemployment among young men (Feather & O’Brien, 1986)[Direction and size of relationship?]. Donovan and Oddy (1982) explored the social and emotional development of a small but closely matched group of employed and unemployed school-leavers. They discovered that unemployed school-leavers were more depressed and anxious, had lower self-esteem and subjective well-being, were less socially adjusted, and had a higher frequency of minor mental illnesses than those individuals that were employed (Furnham, 1984). Feather (1983) discovered that young unemployed individuals, both males and females, had greater depression ratings, poorer self-esteem, and lower work ethic scores than those who were employed (FEATHER & BOND, 1983).

Stress factors[edit | edit source]

Unemployment can worsen any mental health disorder, which can make seeking and obtaining employment difficult (Dooley et al., 1996). A widely held belief in psychology is that the response to stressful circumstances, such as unemployment, takes the appearance of a development throughout phases (Klein et al., 1976). Shock usually characterises the early period, when the individual is still hopeful and optimistic. As unemployment progresses, the individual becomes pessimistic and experiences active anguish, eventually becoming fatalistic about their circumstance and adapting unenthusiastically to their new state (Klein et al., 1976). As a result of higher levels of anxiety, frustration, disappointment, alienation, and depression, the unemployed are likely to have lower mental health[factual?]. Furthermore, these sensations are likely to be more apparent among individuals who have larger financial commitments and those with a greater sense of self efficacy established by earlier accomplishment in a variety of contexts, including school and job (Silveira & Allebeck, 2001). The income loss can result in a decrease in the individual's or family's standard of living, cause concern about the future and a sense that one's life is out of one's hands. (Gnam 2009).

Quiz[edit | edit source]

1 One in ___ people (10.4%) had depression or feelings of depression?


2 Seligman's (1975) claims that feeling of "helplessness" emerge when one individual believes they have little control over crucial factors in their lives?


3 The feeling of helplessness promotes which of the following?


Conclusion[edit | edit source]

This book chapter explore mental health and unemployment; What is mental health, what is unemployment, and the relationship between mental health and unemployment with support from the Psychosocial Theory, Attribution Theory, and Learned Helplessness[grammar?].

As discussed above, it has been scientifically proven that unemployment can cause mental health disorders. Learned Helplessness has been bought to attention that stress and anxiety related factors such as unemployment, financial status, and health-related issues can associate onset of helplessness. However, the higher an individual experience's helplessness, the more it promotes negative consequences such as health-related problems, unemployment, maladaptive perfectionism, exhaustion and an increase in disorder symptoms. Learned helplessness can develop diagnoses of anxiety and depression.

Psychosocial Theory by Erikson discussed the affects{{sp{{ on an induvial[spelling?] if they do not develop in accordance to the eight stages discussed. Poor development into adulthood can cause impact on self-worth, if an individual becomes unemployed, self-worth is impacted and can lead to the development of anxiety and self-doubt. Previous research shown a linear relationship between job satisfaction and mental health, demonstrating that as the number of psychosocial employment challenges grew, so did levels of depression and anxiety.

The attribution Theory indicates a strong relationship between internal, stable, and global attributions and negative outcomes and depression, Meaning that people are more inclined to get depressed if they think they are the cause of their problem. One major finding by Donovan and Oddy (1982) discovered that unemployed individuals were more depressed and anxious, had lower self-esteem and subjective well-being, were less socially adjusted, and had a higher frequency of minor mental illnesses than those individuals that were employed.

There is a significant relationship between unemployment and mental health. They both impact one another in various ways and on different scales. Multiple research findings, theories, and models support this.[vague]

See also[edit | edit source]

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External links[edit | edit source]