A study of people unemployed last year for longer than 25 weeks found that they are more likely than people employed throughout the past year to experience mental-health issues for the first time.
The study by economists and public policy researchers at Washington and Lee University in Virginia also concluded that people with more than a high school education suffer greater adverse psychological impacts of long-term unemployment than those with less education.
Professor of Economics Arthur Goldsmith explained that the study compared people who had never had bouts of clinical depression before and concluded that those who were out of work for a short period of time didn't experience depression, but once their period of unemployment lengthened, they were three times as likely as those who continued to work or were quickly reemployed to experience mental health issues for the first time.
"When people are exposed to long-term unemployment, they obviously feel that they've lost control of their capacity to earn a living and take care of their families," he said in a statement. "They worry about their futures."
Goldsmith urged action to mitigate the affects of joblessness because unemployment destroys basic social fabric. "We see divorce rates are higher during recessions; marriage rates fall during recessions; children growing up in families with unemployed parents perform more poorly in school and tend to have more behavioral problems," he said.
He argued for a public-private partnership to create a summer mentorship program for youth of high-school age to give them a better sense of the skills they will need for success in the labor market over the course of their lives.
"The idea," he said, "is to connect youths to meaningful work, for them to see the implicit and financial rewards associated with good work, to recognize the skills needed to succeed in a global workplace, and to begin developing the relevant skills for success."