Growing Up with Unemployment: A Longitudinal Study of Its Psychological Impact

By Anthony H. Winefield; Marika Tiggemann et al. | Go to book overview

8

The prevalence of psychological ill health and suicidal ideation

INTRODUCTION

Whereas previous chapters have addressed the relationship of a number of psychometric variables to unemployment, this chapter looks at the possible association between clinically significant psychological illness, suicidal ideation and unemployment.

There is a general feeling in most communities that unemployment per se must be bad, and it is easy to attribute one's problems to unemployment rather than examining more painful interpersonal issues. However, it is a complex problem, made more difficult both by the increasing rates of unemployment in most countries and by the fact that psychological illness itself is quite prevalent. Indeed, it is important to reflect that there have been a number of epidemiological surveys in England, North America and Australia which have produced remarkably similar results, with 15-20 per cent of the populations studied having a diagnosable psychological illness. This has been confirmed in the recent authoritative Epidemiologic Catchment Area study in the USA (Robins and Regier, 1991), the most comprehensive study of its type. Furthermore, young adults, the segment of the population most commonly referred to in media publicity about unemployment, are not spared from such psychological illness. It is fair to note that this 15-20 per cent prevalence of psychological illness is predominantly comprised of less serious conditions, but nevertheless such a prevalence must make researchers cautious in attributing any such illness to any specific factors.


EARLY STUDIES

There is a long tradition of research elucidating the association between psychological illness and unemployment. Two of the earliest contributions were those of Lewis in England in 1935 and Eisenberg and Lazarsfeld in the USA in 1938, studies which arose out of the effects of the Great Depression.

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