The effects of youth unemployment: a mental and physical health perspective

As of 2012, there are over a million unemployed 16-24 year olds in the UK and 75 million worldwide (BBC 2012). It is often claimed that this group is three times more likely to become or remain unemployed compared to other age groups.

The long term effects of being unemployed as a young person should not be overlooked, because the benefits of being employed go way beyond simply being paid.  For most young people going to work helps provide a natural structure to the day, a sense of responsibility and the feeling for being part of a team. This can significantly boost one’s self esteem.  Being persistently unemployed as a young person may delay or even prevent the development of these and other skills, which could go on to have a life long effect.  

According to a study (Mossakowski, 2009) young adults who experience long periods of unemployment are more likely to suffer from depression.  What really shocks is a more recent study carried out by Helgesson et al (2012), which showed that that being unemployed early in life increases the risk of illness, as well as the likelihood of being reliant on disability pensions.  These studies go on to show that sometimes the devastating consequences of being unemployed can be detrimental for the mental and physical health of young people.  

Apart from the psychological and psychological health effects that are felt from unemployment among young people, a paper by Mroz and Savage (2003) reveals that wages, for those who experienced a period of unemployment for more than six months at the age 22, were lower than their contemporaries as much as ten years later.  

It could be argued that a person who was unemployed at a young age may feel less empowered to either change jobs when dissatisfied with the wages, or to ask for a higher rate of pay. This could be triggered by the lack of self esteem as the result of the earlier unemployment.  On the other hand, however, it should be taken into consideration that a young person who is naturally shy may be more likely to be unemployed, because of timidity in asserting themselves in the workplace.

The results from a recent study however, show that there is no correlation between being unemployed and later lack of self esteem (Hartley 2011). Whilst this study was not carried out specifically on young adults, it is hopeful to those who are seeking work that it is possible to recover from a period of being out of work.

There are several options facing young unemployed people. Many prefer to take up some form of education, while others stave off the effects of unemployment through volunteering.  Volunteering can provide all of the benefits of being employed, except for income, but on the other hand it can also fill some annoying gaps on your CV. In addition, volunteer jobs show your future employees that you have initiative and motivation to work, which makes your CV significantly more attractive.  


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:This writer holds Honours Degree in Psychology. She has been writing for magazines, blogs and content for websites for the last two years and her specific field of interest is psychology and the human condition. She produces research articles on a variety of topics, through a psychology perspective.

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Barnes, H. (2012) Global youth unemployment: Making sense of the numbers. BBC. Web. Last accessed 12th November 2012.

Hartley, J.F. (2011) The impact of unemployment upon the self-esteem of managers. Web. Last accessed 12th November 2012.

Helgesson M, Johansson B, Nordqvist T, Lundberg I, and Vingård E. (2012). Unemployment at a young age and later sickness absence, disability pension and death in native Swedes and immigrants. Web. Last accessed 12th November 2012.

Mossakowski, K. (2009) The Influence of Past Unemployment Duration on Symptoms of Depression Among Young Women and Men in the United States. Web. Last accessed 12th November 2012.

Mroz, T. and Savage, T. (2003) The long term effects of youth unemployment. Web. Last accessed 12th November 2012.