Unemployment has serious psychological and social effects. Those who suffer from it often experience profound existential dissatisfaction.
Work is a means of economic survival and a vehicle for a person to develop their social, political, cultural, and personal life. Employment is also a source of health or sickness — of physical, psychological, and social well-being or illness. Consequently, work-related changes and crises are very relevant from a psychological point of view.
In many places, the world of work suffers from two significant deficiencies: on one hand, there is a limited supply of work, and on the other, the available jobs are often low-quality. A precarious job market makes societies more vulnerable, and is an important public health problem.
Unemployment: A psychosocial problem
Currently, unemployed people aged 45 or older—often the victims of downsizing, outsourcing, and other situations that take place under new management models—suffer a worrisome instability caused by serious difficulties finding a new job.
The psychological and social effects of unemployment are numerous and serious; in short, they cause malaise and dissatisfaction with one’s current life situation. Here are some of these effects in more detail:
- Existential uncertainty and confusion, pessimism, depression, despair, and demoralization
- Feelings of insecurity, vulnerability, and defenselessness, and of failure, inefficiency, frustration, and injustice
- Low self-esteem
- Disorganization of one’s daily routine
- Lack of a defined role, of status, power, prestige, and social identity and recognition
- Economic, social, ideological, and moral dependence
- Limitation of social interactions due to the lack of ties with work-related social groups
- Alienation from one’s profession, because of obsolescence and the degeneration of work competency, and because one’s career plans become unrealizable
- Destruction of one’s personal, professional, and organizational plans
- An incapacity to build a meaningful autobiographical work narrative; avoidance of unemployment by recourse to social refuges (early retirement, sickness, disability, being a student or a housewife …) or to unhealthy and false escapes such as alcohol, tobacco, prescription medications or other drugs