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The scarring effect of unemployment throughout adulthood on psychological distress at age 50: Estimates controlling for early adulthood distress and childhood psychological factors

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Author Info

  • Daly, M.
  • Delaney, L.

Abstract

Unemployment is an established predictor of psychological distress. Despite this robust relationship, the long-term impact of unemployment on human welfare has been examined in relatively few studies. In this investigation we test the association between the life-time duration of unemployment over a 34 year period from 1974 to 2008 and psychological distress at age 50 years in a sample of 6253 British adults who took part in the National Child Development Study (NCDS). In addition to adjusting for demographic characteristics, we account for the role of childhood psychological factors, which have been shown to predict adult occupational and mental health outcomes and may determine the connection between unemployment and distress. We find that intelligence and behavioral/emotional problems at age 11 predict both unemployment and psychological distress later in life. Furthermore, as predicted, the duration of unemployment throughout adulthood was associated with elevated levels of psychological distress at age 50, after adjusting for demographic characteristics including labor force status at age 50. The emotional impact of unemployment was only marginally attenuated by the inclusion of childhood factors and early-life distress levels in the analyses. Thus, unemployment may lead to worsening distress levels that persist over time and which cannot be attributed to childhood or early-life well-being or cognitive functioning early in life. Our analysis further supports the idea of psychological scarring from unemployment and the importance of employment outcomes for adult well-being.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Social Science & Medicine.

Volume (Year): 80 (2013)
Issue (Month): C ()
Pages: 19-23

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Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:80:y:2013:i:c:p:19-23

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Related research

Keywords: Unemployment; Job loss; Psychological distress; Mental health; Intelligence; Life-span; United Kingdom;

References

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  1. Clark, Andrew E & Georgellis, Yannis & Sanfey, Peter, 2001. "Scarring: The Psychological Impact of Past Unemployment," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 68(270), pages 221-41, May.
  2. Bell, David N.F. & Blanchflower, David G., 2009. "What Should Be Done about Rising Unemployment in the UK?," IZA Discussion Papers 4040, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2007. "Is Well-being U-Shaped over the Life Cycle?," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 826, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  4. Goldsmith, Arthur H. & Veum, Jonathan R. & William Darity, Jr., 1996. "The impact of labor force history on self-esteem and its component parts, anxiety, alienation and depression," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 17(2), pages 183-220, April.
  5. James J. Heckman & Jora Stixrud & Sergio Urzua, 2006. "The Effects of Cognitive and Noncognitive Abilities on Labor Market Outcomes and Social Behavior," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(3), pages 411-482, July.
  6. Bell, David N.F. & Blanchflower, David G., 2011. "Youth Unemployment in Europe and the United States," IZA Discussion Papers 5673, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  7. Andreas Knabe & Steffen Rätzel, 2008. "Scarring or Scaring? The Psychological Impact of Past Unemployment and Future Unemployment Risk," CESifo Working Paper Series 2457, CESifo Group Munich.
  8. Smith, James Patrick & Smith, Gillian C., 2010. "Long-term economic costs of psychological problems during childhood," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 71(1), pages 110-115, July.
  9. Winkelmann, Liliana & Winkelmann, Rainer, 1998. "Why Are the Unemployed So Unhappy? Evidence from Panel Data," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 65(257), pages 1-15, February.
  10. Denise Hawkes & Ian Plewis, 2006. "Modelling non-response in the National Child Development Study," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 169(3), pages 479-491.
  11. William T. Gallo & Elizabeth H. Bradley & Joel A. Dubin & Richard N. Jones & Tracy A. Falba & Hsun-Mei Teng & Stanislav V. Kasl, 2006. "The Persistence of Depressive Symptoms in Older Workers Who Experience Involuntary Job Loss: Results From the Health and Retirement Survey," Journals of Gerontology: Series B, Gerontological Society of America, vol. 61(4), pages S221-S228.
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Cited by:
  1. Clemens Hetschko & Andreas Knabe & Ronnie Schöb, 2014. "Looking Back in Anger?: Retirement and Unemployment Scarring," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 652, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  2. Sarah Gibney & Mark E. McGovern & Erika Sabbath, 2013. "Social Relationships in Later Life: The Role of Childhood Circumstances," Working Papers 201319, Geary Institute, University College Dublin.

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