Suffering from emotional problems in adolescence is a key risk factor for future joblessness irrespective of socio-economic background, says a study.
The research found clear evidence that distressed adolescents — who tend to feel nervous or depressed rather than calm or happy — subsequently experienced higher levels of joblessness in early adulthood. The findings showed that adolescents who were highly distressed at ages 16 to 20 were 32 per cent more likely to be unemployed and 26 per cent more likely to be unemployed or out of the workforce in early adulthood.
“The findings provide strong evidence that distressed adolescents are vulnerable to unemployment and suggest that this vulnerability increased during the recent difficult economic period following the Great Recession,” said lead researcher Mark Egan from University of Stirling in Britain.
The study — published in the journal Social Science & Medicine — examined the employment patterns of over 7,000 Americans — born in the period 1980-1984 — over a 12-year period.
The findings revealed that the adverse impact of psychological distress on job prospects grew in the years following the 2007-2009 Great Recession where those with a history of distress experienced a pronounced rise in joblessness. The trends held even when comparing distressed to non-distressed siblings, suggesting that emotional problems carry a heavy penalty even among brothers and sisters from the same background.
Economic benefits could be gained by treating mental health issues in early life and the researchers called for investment in this area. “Investing in childhood and adolescent mental health services could have economic benefits including reducing population-level unemployment,” Egan noted.