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How Unemployment Affects Our Mental Health

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Stress seems a common factor in modern life, and I wrote last year about the impact the various different kinds of stress has on our wellbeing, both at work and in our lives generally. Stress is particularly troubling as another post revealed how few of us would confide in our boss about any mental issues we were facing. Suffice to say, a worrying amount of stress sees people take their own lives.

A recent study highlights the terrible role unemployment can play in the suicide rate around the world.  The study was triggered by the rise in unemployment around the world since 2008 and the difficulties in regaining a place in the workforce during the subsequent years of austerity.

The paper reveals that around a million people die each year from suicide around the world.  In order to understand how unemployment contributed to this figure, the researchers trawled through a host of data from Europe, North America, South America and Asia.

Despite country-specific particularities, we found a similarly strong association between unemployment and suicide rates in all four regions," the authors say.

20 Percent of Suicides are Linked to Unemployment

The shocking findings were that around one in five of all suicides were linked with unemployment in some way, with the figure rising in 2008 as the financial crisis hit. That year alone, the researchers believe around 46,000 deaths were prompted by unemployment related stresses.

Therefore, suicides associated with unemployment totaled a nine-fold higher number of deaths than excess suicides attributed to the most recent economic crisis," the researchers explain.

Changing Circumstances

The results revealed that the impact of unemployment was much stronger in nations where unemployment was low in the years leading up to the crisis.  The authors believe therefore that policies aimed at integrating people more into the job market and promoting a healthier work climate are crucial to help ward off the threat of suicide should the economy slump.

Interestingly however, the data suggests that people were killing themselves roughly six months before the unemployment rate rose, suggesting that many people could see the trouble on the horizon.

The development on the job market was obviously anticipated and the uncertainty regarding the development of the economic situation already seems to have negative consequences," the authors say.

The authors go on to suggest that the pressure associated with organisations trying to cope with a financial downturn can also be a contributory factor. Things such as restructurings can be incredibly damaging to our mental wellbeing.

Training for specialists such as those in the human resources department is needed to recognize this increased suicide risk in people both in and out of work more effectively and to help deal with the problem," the authors recommend.

With the impacts of such events felt far beyond those directly affected, it’s important that both employers and society as a whole look to reduce the fallout from economic uncertainty, and that these measures should begin even before any recession officially strikes.

Does your current employer provide any help or resources for mental wellbeing? Have you been affected by the financial crash yourself in any way? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

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