The research that has been carried out on the consequences of unemployment is extensive. Much of this research is related to the 1930 s and 1980 s when unemployment reached its peak in the west. I aim with this research to highlight the consequences of unemployment on a persons mental health. I would like to analyse the role that work plays within our lives, as if we are to assess the human consequences of unemployment, we need to understand the human consequences of employment also. If employment has lost its meaning for many through alienatation and exploitation in the workplace, then surely unemployment would become merely an economic issue.
Work in a modern society serves many functions in that it provides outcomes that have the potential to satisfy a number of personal needs. Initially, work is a source of income and when we look at the classical concept of the economic man, it suggests that income is the only reason for work and that humans are only motivated to achieve a better material status 1. As we know this Taylor istc view isnt true, otherwise we could assume that people would discontinue working once their material needs were satisfied. The fact that this alone is true suggests that work plays a more important function. Neff (1968) (cited in 1. ) states that those who were vocationally disabled wanted to work to release themselves from boredom and inactivity therefore work as a form of activity is very important.
Work requires the expenditure of energy in the form of physical or mental activity. In a study carried out by Morse and Weiss (1955) (cited in 1) on the reasons for working, 32 per cent indicated that work kept them occupied and interested, 10 per cent that work kept them healthy, four pe cent that without work they would be bored and another 10 per cent said they wouldnt know what to do with all their time. It would appear that work is the main source of activity for humans and that people prefer to be active than idle. Work acts as a structure to time.
It determines what time people get up, how long they stay away from the home and what they will spend their time doing. Over a longer period, our time is structured by holidays, weekends and so on, which provides many timetable for life. Loss of work can be said to lead to de-orientation. Jahoda study in the 1930 s of an Austrian village called Marienthal, is a perfect example of how workers became de-orientated with the closure of the only factory in the village.
The men who had become unemployed were asked at the end of each day to describe their activities. They were unable to give any good description and their days were scheduled by biologically incisive points, such as eating. Other tasks, which could only have consumed a few minutes, were described as taking up the whole morning. While these men had lots of free time their women complained that they were never punctual at mealtimes, highlighting the relevance of a habitual time structure through work (cited in 2.
) Work is a sourse of creativity and mastery. Hendrick (1943 cited in 1. ) suggests that the pleasure gained from work is due to the fact we have mastery over the ability to change our environment. He created a work principle that states primary pleasure is sought by the efficient use of the nervous system for the performance of well-integrated ego functions which enable the individual to control or alter his or her environment. (p. 41.
) Neff (1968 cited in 1. ) believes that in some cases people attempt to satisfy themselves through their work and the needs to be creative. Creativity is a form of stimulation re leaving one from boredom and attaining a sense of achievement. Work creates meaningfulness and without it a person can suffer from feeling a loss of purpose. Social interaction is another aspect of work that is vital to a person. It was discovered by Herbert et al (1957 cited in 1.
) when reviewing 15 studies, which involved 28, 000 workers, that a major sourse of satisfaction was the social aspect of the job to the extent it was the most frequently mentioned. Finally, work gives people a sourse of identity. Many people introduce themselves using the title of their occupation. This is an indicator of a persons status and is perhaps is used due to the loss of many traditional forms of identification, such as religion.
Unemployment undermines the individuals status and in-turn damages a persons self-esteem by the fact they become dependent on others or the state for support. This can often lead to a feeling of failure. It appears that work provides a great deal more than just satisfaction but infact fulfils many deeper needs of our human nature. The loss of work therfore must have some form of effect on a persons mental health.
Through the Psycho-social Transition I aim to show this. The Psycho-social Transition is a framework designed to describe the various stages that people experience during unemployment. While it is only a general framework it attempts to provide a basis from which we can gain a greater understanding of an individuals behaviour and psychological state. This framework was designed by Hopson and Adams (1976 cited in 1. ) They describe the experience of unemployment in seven stages (see Appendix I. ) The first stage is called immobilization.
This is when a person becomes overwhelmed by an event, in this case unemployment, and is unable to reason or understand what is happening. It could be said they are in a state of shock as they are unable to deal with reality. Hill and Briar (1977 cited in 1) found that on becoming unemployed some people took a holiday, maybe due to the opportunity to be able to, but Nutman and Hayes suggests this behaviour is just an attempt to avoid change and retain self-image, afterall taking a holiday is an act carried out by most employed people. It could also be seen as an effort to escape. The second stage of minimization is where a level of reality is maintained through the pretence that the event never happened and in turn minimizing the need for change. People tried to retain their self-image, delaying the acceptance of their situation by prolonging claiming benefits.
An unemployed person stated I resent the fact that I had to sign on the dole, or become in me own opinion, a second class citizen. 4. The fact that a person delays claiming the dole is a sign they are avoiding the eminent alteration in their life and they believe that their situation is only temporary. Jahoda states that even with redundancy payments or sufficient unemployment allowances, the unemployed do not enjoy their leisure time and still feel disheartened and of low self-esteem; as though they are on the scrap heap 3. (p.
189. ) At this stage of optimism, people still have a strong belief in finding new employment to the extent that some people create a daily routine through the process of job seeking and carrying out jobs around the home. This was one way in which people were found to maintain his or her image of a worker afterall Work provides for most people the pattern in which their lives are lived. 5 As more and more rejections are received the person becomes disheartened and moves from optimism to pessimism.
When an individual fails to achieve his or her expectations they continue to try and find an equilibrium in order to cope, which involves a change in assumptions and expectations. This involves cognitive redefinition of him-herself, the situation and future development of new personal constructs. Eventually, they become willing to accept change but dont know how to make these changes. A sense of uselessness and loss of purpose builds up as they fall into depression.
People have to accept the reality of their situation and let go releasing themselves from the assumptions of their pre-transitional situation. 1. (p. 11. ) It is only after this stage that a person is able to move on and test out their new life space. They attempt to develop new ways of dealing with their present reality and do this by changing their attitudes and behaviours.
It is an attempt to create a new framework of understanding and reference within which one can begin to make sense of the situation of unemployment. If a person is successful is the search for meaning through their new framework, it can be internalized as the new basis of their assumptive world which has been affected by the transition. The Psy so-social transition can be said to be limited since it has not been rigorously tested and Hopson and Adams (1976) recognise its limitations as they say, it is not systematic enough to be called a model, and not ambitious enough to be called a theory. 1.
( p. 12. ) Jahoda also states this and believes it is just the way it must be. 3.
Harrison (1976 cited in 1. ) looked more at the effects of long term unemployment and suggests that there are only four stages within the transitional cycle; shock, optimism, pessimism and fatalism. It is similar to that of Hopson and Adams in the fact that they both show an increase in self-esteem as a person moves into the later stages of transition. Long term adjustment tends to be defined by the acceptance of the situation and move away from the disabling, depressive states but while their self-esteem lifts it still remains lower than that of the employed. Seligman (1975 cited in 1) also looked at the psychological reactions of the later stages of unemployment and devised the theory of Helplessness. He believes that individuals when placed in an uncontrollable situation learn that reacting is futile and do not respond to take action.
This interference with the learnt action of response to achieve your goals produces cognitive distortions leading to anxiety and in turn depression. For some it can lead to learned helplessness where even the smallest of obstacles become too difficult to get past. I would now like to discuss the work of Jahoda and others to continue to strengthen the argument that unemployment has serious negetive effects on an individuals mental health. At the height of the depression in the 1930 s, unemployment in most industrial countries was well over 20 per cent of the labour force. 50-60 percent were unemployed in the coal-mining communities of South Wales, 2/3 of people were permanently unemployed in Jarrow, and those miners over the age of 45 were resigned to never finding work again 6... This highlights the drastic situation that many people were faced with.
If we turn to Maslow (1958 cited in 6. ) we can see through his hierarchy of needs the effect unemployment can have on an in vidual. He stated that our basic needs require shelter and food to be fulfilled but even this was difficult in the poverty of unemployment in the 1930 s preventing people from moving towards their higher order needs. In 1929, the only factory in the Austrian village of Marienthal closed down, leading to mass unemployment. An investigation was undertaken by Jahoda to see what effect it had 2... People initially reacted with shock to the onset of unemployment.
Women panicked about household management. Some fell into debt even though they managed to live on a reduced income later and many voluntary organisations and clubs closed their doors. After the initial shock, there was actually a slight recovery when they began to manage, but as economic hardship continued to worsen this adaption became threatened 6... Jahoda states that modern industrialised societies shape the experience of time through public institutions such as the school system, which from the early days of childhood sets us to the rhythm of work. It impresses the value of punctuality and the need to fill the day with activity, which employment offers through a fixed time schedule. When this is removed people feel a great psychological burden upon themselves.
Even with all this spare time, the men in Marienthal were still unpunctual, while the effect on women was far lower as they consumed their days with household tasks. For unemployed men their working day was reduced to 13 hours since sleeping kept them warm, made them forget their problems and saved their clothes. They idled away their time and similar to the Bakke study in Greenwich 6. they would spend a great deal of time on the streets just waiting for something to happen and participating in very little conversation. We can conclude from this then that time structure is a vital aspect of life.
One of the major differences in the 1980 s was the improvement in material circumstances but another dramatic change was that of the education levels of the population as a whole. The addition of two extra compulsory years at school increased the knowledge of the population and was found to heighten the aspirations of individuals 6... It could be argued then that unemployment could be more difficult to cope with now as it frustrates high hopes. During the 1930 s the television had not been heard of either. Social scientists have investigated the impact of this introduction of the television into our homes. Advertising and the display of a comfortable middle class life mediated through the television, is far more powerful than the written or spoken word and affect the material aspirations of people far more 6.
While they are only experiencing relative deprivation, the experience of trying to keep up appearances is psychologically distressing. Todays work is often said to be a source of achieving material wealth, especially as consumerism often defines our status and is no longer based around the Protestant Work Ethic that defined work as morally good and was the creator of moral norms. I now want to look at research carried out on different groups within the unemployed especially youth unemployment. Banks and Jackson (1982 cited in 7.
) carried out one of the best-known studies of young people. The study was only of those who had two O Levels or the equivalent. The study questioned 647 students who had just left school in 1978 and 1096 students just before they left school in 1979 and followed both groups up with a yearly interview followed by another after 18 months. The results showed that those that were still at school had the most dramatic score in the health questionaire (form 11.
36 to 13. 55) but a significant decrease in those who gained jobs (10. 61 8. 41. ) Warr 7. suggests that this could be linked to the anxiety felt about entering the labour market at a time where there was increasing unemployment and deepening recession.
Jahoda believed this age group was most affected by unemployment (16-19 yrs) which is worrying since these are the people whose skills, motivation and outlook on life shape the future of business. While school and the aspirations of their families may have instilled in them many hopes and dreams, when faced with the situation of unemployment all their ambitions are often lost. Dan van der Vat (1981 cited in 6. ) discovered through conversations with young people that many had lost their will to work and their abiltiy to live within an adult society. Based on a survey of 1000 interviews with young people who had visited the London Central YMCA, one in four of unemployed 16-25 year olds had contemplated suicide 8... Jahoda believes they are the most affect due to the loss of time structure leading to boredom and not knowing what to do with so much time.
Unemployed women on the other hand are probably the least affected because they structure their time through domestic chores but what effects them most is the loss of social contacts. For unemployed managers the loss of status is often the most pressing issue. As we can see the process of unemployment is not experienced the same by everyone. While unemployment may be damaging to our mental health, it is often argued that poor employment situations can also detiorate our mental health and I would like to explore which of these is better, employment or unemployment Appendix 1 is an example of just how relevant this issue is as it shows that people who are overworked becoming mentally ill. Korn hauser (1965 cited in 3. ) in his study of mental health within the workforce discovered that mental health varied with the level of skill.
Those with the lowest skills were the most mentally ill. In most surveys about five per cent of people report an improvement in their mental health because they have escaped from miserable job and others because they have found positive aspects of unemployment 10. A survey carried out by Jackson and Warr (cited in 9) on 954 men who had been unemployed on average for five months, found that while the largest percentage of people experienced poor mental health, eight per cent actually said that their mental health had improved since becoming unemployed. A study by College and Bartholomew in 1968 looking at long term unemployment found just under 2/3 of men described their health as excellent or good and only nine per cent stated their health was poor due to unemployment (cited in 9.
) On the other hand, Brenner (1976 cited in 3) saw that when unemployment rates were high so were social apathy indicators and stated that the negetive consequences of unemployment were far worse than those of employment. While work can be argued as alienating and exploitative, a Dutch study by Hofstede (1979 cited in 3) concluded that the humanization of work is only demanded by the intec tual elite and not by alienated workers therfore work is not necessarily as threatening to mental health as some may claim. Afterall, work fulfils the Latent Functions defined by Jahoda 3 of imposing a time structure, the sharing of experiences and contact with others outside of the immediate family, employment enables people to link themselves to individual goals and purposes that transen d their own, it structures their personal identity and status and finally, it enforces activity. These Latent Functions echo strongly back to the ideas I put forward earlier about the functions of work.
Even Freud (1930 cited in 9. ) stated work was a persons strongest tie to reality and therefore it would seem, in general, that unemployment affects mental health far more than employment ever has. Over the past century there has been a numerous studies undertaken to try and discover the effects of unemployment but there is no real theory to bind the research and knowledge regarding this area together, and so there is often quite a gap between the theory and the research. While unemployment rates rise in industrialised countries with the international division of labour leading to fewer jobs in the western world, especially when to survive economically organisations replace jobs with technology, it is important that we look at the consequences that such increases in unemployment could have. While work may have become more alienating and exploitative, the consequences on mental health for the unemployed is still as drastic as it ever was and far worse then than being within employment. Unemployment today doesnt necessarily lead to deep poverty like it did in the depression of the 1930 s but the psychological consequences remain the same if not worse by the pressure placed on people within a consumer society with higher standards of living.
While the working environment of the 1930 s was much different to that of the 1980 s and today, I hope, I have highlighted the severe negetive consequences of unemployment on mental health through the use of theory and knowledge to gain a greater understanding of the experience of life without work. Endnotes 1. Haye J & Nutman P Understanding the Unemployed The Psychological Effects of Unemployment (1981) Tavistock. 2. Fryer D & Ullah P Unemployed People: Social and Psycholgical Perspectives (1987) Open University Press. 3.
Jahoda M - Work, Employment, and Unemployment (1981) American Psycholgist, 36, 2. 4. Tv Eye 5 th June 1980 Thames Television cited in 1 5. Pilgrim Trust 1968 cited in 1. (p. 23.
) 6. Jahoda M Employment and Unemployment (1982) Camberidge University Press 7. Warr P Comparison between employed and unemployed: twelve questions about unemployment and health in Roberts, R, Finnegan, R, Gaille, D eds. New approaches to economic life (1985) Manchester University Press.
8. Balloch S, Hume C, Jones B, and Westland P Caring for unemployed people (1985) Bedford Sqaure Press. 9. Smith R Unemployment and Health (1987) Oxford University Press 10. Fryer D & Payne R Proactive behaviour in unemployment; findings and implications. Leisure studies 1984; 3: 273-95 cited in 9.
Bibliography Balloch S, Hume C, Jones B, and Westland P Caring for Unemployed People (1985) Bedford Sqaure Press. Dodd V Overworked Britons feel ill and too tired for love. The Guardian 5 March 2001 Haye J & Nutman P Understanding the Unemployed The Psychological Effects of Unemployment (1981) Tavistock. Fryer D & Ullah P Unemployed People: Social and Psycholgical Perspectives (1987) Open University Press. Jahoda M - Work, Employment, and Unemployment (1981) American Psycholgist, 36, 2.
Jahoda M Employment and Unemployment (1982) Camberidge University Press Smith R Unemployment and Health (1987) Oxford University Press Warr P Comparison between employed and unemployed: twelve questions about unemployment and health in Roberts, R, Finnegan, R, Gaille, D eds. New Approaches to Economic Life (1985) Manchester University Press.