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Long-Term Unemployment Can Tax Mental Health
Date:10/19/2011

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Americans who were jobless for longer than 25 weeks in the past year were three times more likely than those who were continuously employed to suffer mental health issues for the first time, a new study finds.

Being jobless also has a greater psychological impact on people with more than a high school education than on those with less education, the researchers found.

The study involved people who had never had clinically defined emotional health issues in their life or who had their first bout of problems in the most recent year.

"In looking at this group of resilient individuals, we compared the psychological health of those who were fully employed with those who were exposed to short-term unemployment or less than 25 weeks of involuntary joblessness, and with people who were exposed to long-term unemployment over the past year," Arthur Goldsmith, an economics professor at Washington and Lee University, said in a university news release.

The findings were scheduled for presentation Wednesday at a Congressional briefing on the emotional impact of unemployment sponsored by the American Psychological Association.

"The reason we focus on this group is that if you're 55 years old, and you've never had a bout of poor emotional well-being that would be described clinically in that way, and have your first bout in the past year when you are exposed to unemployment, it's very unlikely that your poor mental health led to the unemployment rather than your unemployment leading to the poor mental health. Thus, we are able to address the issue of causality that has plagued prior studies of the link between unemployment and mental health," Goldsmith explained.

He and his colleagues found that the risk of first-time mental health issues was about the same for people who were fully employed and those who experienced short-term unemployment.

"On the other hand, we found th
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