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Unemployment gets worse before getting better, then it gets worse again, finds U of M study

A new study co-authored by Connie Wanberg, associate dean at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management, finds that being unemployed is most difficult right after losing a job and after a job search has gone on for more than two months.

Wanberg and her colleagues tracked 177 unemployed people over the course of 20 weeks with weekly online surveys. On a six-point scale, subjects were asked to self-report their mental health by responding to questions like, "have you felt downhearted and blue?"

The study found that being unemployed is most depressing during the week or two immediately after a job is lost, but people experience a gradual improvement in their sense of well-being from there. However, if subjects still hadn't found  a job after 10 to 12 weeks of searching, they tended to backslide into depression.

Wanberg and her colleagues also found that subjects who engaged in more intense job searches exhibited better mental health than those that approached their job search more casually. On average, subjects spent just over 15 hours a week looking for work.

After 20 weeks, 72 percent of subjects had found jobs.

Said Wanberg in an e-mail:

One interesting question is how can we prevent declines in mental health over the duration of the unemployment experience as individuals face repeated rejections that threaten their feelings of self worth and hope of finding a job. Our study shows that individuals need to fight self-defeating cognition (e.g., "I am worthless") and instead engage in motivational control techniques such as daily goal setting and establishing a strong job search routine that involves breaks to do something fun each day.

In other words, if you find yourself looking for work, do your best to keep your chin up, and don't forget to try and enjoy life from time to time. It's easy to constantly beat yourself up for being unemployed and broke, but doing so will probably just make it more difficult to find gainful employment.

See also:
-- Unemployed 22-year-old resorts to plastering face on Mpls billboard in hopes of finding job


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