Losing a job is a profoundly distressing experience, but the unemployed may be more resilient than previously believed – the vast majority eventually end up as satisfied with life as they were before they lost their jobs, according to analysis by the American Psychological Association.
“Unemployment rates continue to be historically high in the United States and other countries,” said the study’s lead author, Isaac Galatzer-Levy, PhD. “There’s a real concern that this will have long-term implications on the mental well-being of a large portion of the work force. But this analysis suggests that people are able to cope with a job loss relatively well over time.”
The researchers divided participants into four groups based on their life satisfaction reports. The largest group (69 percent) reported a relatively high and stable level of life satisfaction before losing their jobs. They were more likely to be negatively affected at the time they lost their jobs but a year later, their average life satisfaction had returned to its pre-unemployment level.
For the second largest group, 15 percent of respondents, their well-being was gradually improving before losing their jobs and then leveled off in the four years following their unemployment.
Another group (13 percent) reported relatively low levels of life satisfaction before job loss, and their levels stayed more or less the same throughout the time of the researchers’ analysis.
Well-being levels among the smallest group (4 percent) were already declining in the years leading up to unemployment and continued to decline after job loss until it began to go back up in the third year. But these people never fully returned to pre-unemployment levels, according to the findings. This last group was also the least likely to be re-employed in the years after they lost their jobs.