Joblessness has wreaked financial and emotional havoc on the lives of many of those out of work, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll of unemployed adults, causing major life changes, mental health issues, and trouble maintaining even basic necessities.
The results of the poll, which surveyed 708 unemployed adults from Dec. 5 to Dec. 10 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points, help to lay bare the depth of the trauma experienced by millions across the country who are out of work as the jobless rate hovers at 10 percent and, in particular, as the ranks of the long-term unemployed soar.
While some form of depression from unemployment is likely to occur within all age groups, McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine
faculty member Mary Amanda Dew, PhD (pictured), professor of psychiatry, psychology, epidemiology, and biostatistics at the University of Pittsburgh and Director of the Clinical Epidemiology Program at the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, said those most likely to suffer depression are adults age 50 to 60.
"They have lower prospects of getting new jobs," said Dr. Dew, "and they may be facing age discrimination."
Roughly half of the poll respondents described the recession as a hardship that had caused fundamental changes in their lives. Generally, those who have been out of work longer reported experiencing more acute financial and emotional effects.
It is not just the loss of income that causes depression during unemployment, Dr. Dew said, but also the loss of social networks.
"People make a lot of friends at work," she said, "and it is sometimes difficult to maintain those connections when the job is lost."
Dr. Dew said there are several warning signs for depression:
- A change in sleep habits.
- A loss of interest in hobbies once loved.
- A person alienates himself.
- An increased use of alcohol.
- Constant fatigue during daily life.
- A lack of interest in everything.
- Trouble concentrating.
If you have depression, you may feel exhausted, helpless, and hopeless. It may be extremely difficult to take any action to help yourself. But it is important to realize that these feelings are part of the depression and do not accurately reflect actual circumstances. As you begin to recognize your depression and begin treatment, negative thinking will fade.
To help yourself:
- Engage in mild activity or exercise. Go to a movie, a ballgame, or another event or activity that you once enjoyed. Participate in religious, social, or other activities.
- Set realistic goals for yourself.
- Break up large tasks into small ones, set some priorities, and do what you can as you can.
- Try to spend time with other people and confide in a trusted friend or relative. Try not to isolate yourself, and let others help you.
- Expect your mood to improve gradually, not immediately. Do not expect to suddenly "snap out of" your depression. Often during treatment for depression, sleep and appetite will begin to improve before your depressed mood lifts.
- Postpone important decisions, such as getting married or divorced, until you feel better. Discuss decisions with others who know you well and have a more objective view of your situation.
- Remember that positive thinking will replace negative thoughts as your depression responds to treatment.
Illustration: McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
The New York Times (12/14/09)
Associated Content (08/20/09)
National Institute of Mental Health—Depression
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center/Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic: Adult Depression and Anxiety
Bio: Dr. Amanda Mary Dew