Unemployment is obviously bad for your wallet. Can it be bad for your health as well? Recent studies have shown that the stress of unemployment— and perhaps worse, the threat of becoming unemployed— is taking a serious toll on our health. One researcher found that chronic job insecurity was a stronger predictor of poor health than either smoking or high blood pressure. Eek! Let’s take a look at how unemployment can affect your health, and what you can do about it.
According to a 2010 report by the Pew Research Center, being unemployed is one of the most difficult social circumstances for a person to navigate. In addition to losing income, the social stigma and personal disappointment of being unemployed can combine to double the risk of a depressive episode. Not to sound like a public service announcement, but if you or someone you know is unemployed, be on the lookout for depression and other adverse health effects. Consider free counseling clinics, and get some professional perspective on how to deal with unemployment.
Additionally, look for things to keep yourself busy. My mom lost her job in March 2011 and was unable to find work for almost a year. She used the “extended unpaid vacation” to help renovate my grandmother’s house and provide some inexpensive childcare for my brother and his wife. Stay away from sweat pants and Cheetos, and try to reduce your disappointment at not having a job.
As I said above, the stress can actually be worse for those who have a job but are worried about losing it. The desire to keep a job can lead to longer hours and fewer vacations— neither of which are good for your health. If you find yourself working more hours, take special care to make sure you get enough sleep and recreation time. Not getting enough sleep can lead to a whole host of health problems, plus the time you do spend working will be less effective. Try to get a little exercise, as studies have shown that physical activity makes your brain more alert. If you only have an hour of free time at night, go on a bike ride with a friend to get some exercise and amiable chit-chat.
Finally, consider talking with your boss if you feel too overworked. Take the temperature of the office, but most employers aren’t the villainous Office Space type. A good employer knows that you will only do your best work if you are well rested and relaxed. Ask how you can do your job more efficiently, and they will likely appreciate that you took the initiative to improve your performance. Take care!
How do you deal with the stress of unemployment? Leave us a comment below, or send me a tweet: @ithinkther4iamb