Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Unemployed, Depressed and Spreading Loneliness

People who have recently become unemployed are four times more likely to claim to have depression than the general population, a new survey suggests. The survey is the Pfizer Health Index; this year the study also examined the impact of the recession on people’s lives, with particular focus on those who recently became unemployed.

"The Pfizer Health Index is a Behaviour and Attitudes National Barometer Survey, which samples 1,040 adults aged 16 and over. Pfizer said a "booster" of 122 recently unemployed people was added to the research this year." See more here. More information is also available here. The 2008 report (related to the Pfizer Health Index) is available here.

Finally, the link between unemployment and depression is worth considering in light of new research which indicates that loneliness spreads in social networks: "Loneliness can be contagious, new study finds". The research, a new study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, was led by John Cacioppo, a neuroscientist and psychologist at the University of Chicago. The data comes from a longitudinal study, conducted by the University of Chicago, the University of California-San Diego and Harvard, which interviewed more than 5,000 people over the course of 10 years, tracking their friendship histories and their reports of loneliness.
"In the study, researchers found that lonely individuals tend to move to the fringes of social networks (and, no, we’re not talking about Facebook or Twitter here), where they have fewer and fewer friends.

But before they move to the periphery, they “infect” or “transmit” their feelings of loneliness to their remaining friends. With fewer close relationships, these friends then become lonely and eventually move to the fringes of the social network, again passing their loneliness on to others. Thus, the cycle continues."
The study also found that "loneliness spreads much more easily among women than among men, citing the idea that women may be more likely to express and share emotions, as well as the observation that there may be greater stigma associated with loneliness among men." This may be the source of some solace: the latest Live Register (LR) figures show that almost twice as many men are claiming unemployment benefit (or allowance), compared to women. If two-thirds of LR claimants (i.e. the males) are less likely to spread their feelings of loneliness (compared to the other third), then this is the potential source of solace. However, there is still the possibility that loneliness could be spreading; and more importantly; LR claimants are more likely to be depressed.

1 comment:

Martin Ryan said...

Liam mentioned Cacioppo's book on "Loneliness" on a previous occasion: