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Can Unemployment Really Cause People to Become ill?

Updated on January 31, 2013
A Depressed Unemployed Man Being Consoled
A Depressed Unemployed Man Being Consoled | Source

The question is, how many of us have ever stopped to think about the negative consequences of unemployment, in particular, the danger it poses to one's health? Presently, in the U.S. alone, millions of adults find themselves in what is considered the "Transition category" (i.e. Unemployed, but trying to obtain a job). These people are either going to work for the first time or trying to reenter the work force after being laid off, fired or after quitting. Based on findings, an estimated 10 million Americans leave their jobs involuntarily every year.

Currently, the uncertainties of the labor market can create a great deal of anxiety in the minds of both the employed and the unemployed. We have seen the toll it has taken on some people, or have heard the stories, so there is enough reason to believe that joblessness is far more than an economic misfortune. Beyond all reasonable doubts, it can adversely affects one's health. It can be a psychological catastrophe for the unemployed and their families. Unemployment can cause illnesses, divide families and friends and create a downward spiral of feelings of worthlessness, and low self-esteem.

Individuals who were brought up to measure their self-worth in terms of their profession/occupation and earnings, view unemployment more than just a loss of income. Findings revealed that people out of a job commonly report an increase incidence of headaches, stomach problems, insomnia, and other illnesses. They also tend to smoke, drink and worry a lot more than they did when they had a job.

Many of the unemployed have been reported dying from heart attacks, suicides and cirrhosis of the liver. A large percentage of their families also ended up being incarcerated after being charged for committing a crime, or find themselves in a mental institution, due to major depression or other mental illnesses. The impact usually goes well beyond the individual who loses a job. The stress created by economic factors can certainly have an adverse effect on our national life at every level.

Based on findings, men in particular, who have been the sole breadwinner of the family, are especially struck hard by unemployment. They suffer greater depression and anxiety, and experience a higher incidence of psychotic behavior when compared to men who are employed. Approximately nine months after being unemployed, appears to be the time window when hope and patience give out, according to one leading psychologist. After that, illness, suicide, alcoholism, divorce, and even crime grow at an epidemic rate.

Many of them often miss their coworkers and the daily routine of going to work so badly, that they often feel they no longer have anything to look forward to. The sense of hopelessness also exacerbates every time they are turned down for a new job. For many of those who might be actively searching for a job, if this rejection continue to occur over a period of time, they may totally withdraw from the labor force. The rejection they feel may even get worse if friends, families and neighbors keep shunning them.


It's sad to learn that unemployment can have such adverse effects on one's health and overall socioeconomic life. However, for those of us who are still employed, since none of us is immune to such unfortunate reality of life, we should look at all these negative consequences of unemployment as a warning before we become victims. We should then try to device plans to deal with them. If it means making the sacrifice to put aside an extra buck or two, doing an extra safe personal investment on the side, or even trying multiple other small income streams and so on. Also, you should always try to stay in great shape, by eating right and exercising regularly.

If your job offer health insurance, take advantage of this now - make sure you have a clean bill of health or try to take care of any existing illness before it exacerbate. Remember this, when you are unemployed, you might be placed in a position wherein you are left without health benefits or the money to care for those existing illnesses,plus those you are susceptible to.

As for those who are currently, out of a job, I can only imagine what you all might be going through at the moment. However, my advice to you all:- please do not quit, keep trying, try to stay busy, positive and strong. If you believe in God, continue to pray that he opens a door of opportunity for you! Garnish all the support you can get from your church or other community support groups. The stress brought on by unemployment can be overwhelming to the body's immune system. Although we cannot avoid stress, we can definitely find ways of managing stress(like walking,jogging, meditating etc.),and avoid our health from spiraling downwards.


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    • mackyi profile imageAUTHOR

      I.W. McFarlane 

      6 years ago from Philadelphia

      Thanks for feedback billips, I know exactly what you're talking about. Unfortunately,we are living in times of uncertainties, therefore none of us is immune to becoming a victim of unemployment. The fortunate folks may call it lazy, because a many of them were born with a "Golden Spoon" in their mouth(just a phrase)!The truth is, it's tough on the unemployed individuals--tough enough to send their overall health spiraling downwards. Sadly, there is no easy fix to this problem. Just take my bit of advices. Also continue praying, and keep hope alive.

    • billips profile image


      6 years ago from Central Texas

      Excellent hub - you have made some wise comments - people used to conclude that if you are unemployed you were simply too lazy or incompetent to find a job - unfortunately times are such that unemployment has become an epidemic - a hazard to both physical and mental health - is there an answer to this dreadful problem? - B.

    • mackyi profile imageAUTHOR

      I.W. McFarlane 

      6 years ago from Philadelphia

      Yes,unemployment can definitely affect your health. The excessive smoking, laziness,decrease motivation, etc. are all signs of depression. I sincerely hope you will be able to get a job soon that offers medical benefits. Stay positive and strong. Don't give up; keep hope alive.

    • jennjenn519 profile image


      6 years ago from Cocoa, Fl

      I've never thought that my being unemployed was affecting my health. But you are right, I smoke more, I've become lazier than ever, don't want to leave the house, and can't force myself back to the gym. I guess you could call that depression. A few years ago, I was a CT Technologist, buy I quit that job to pursue my own business in the construction industry. Things were great for a couple of years, then bam, no more work. Had to drop my insurance. Now I am getting job offers for the company, but don't have the money for the insurance. Ugh. Anyway, thank you for a very interesting, informative article.

    • mackyi profile imageAUTHOR

      I.W. McFarlane 

      6 years ago from Philadelphia

      Sorry to hear this about your dad Pascale1973. I agree that in time like these people need to stay busy, but they also have to try to remain hopeful and positive. Having caring,understanding, positive and supportive people around also helps a lot in the prevention of depression and other stress related illnesses. Thanks for your input.

    • Pascale1973 profile image

      Pascale Skaf Saliba 

      6 years ago from Orange County, CA

      It's true, sometimes the stress and depression can really affect your health, I've watched my father get unhealthy and sick soon after he lost his job, it's important to stay busy no matter what...a job can eventually be replace but health cannot, nice hub!


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