The mental health impact of involuntary unemployment: the recession and the people of Bradford

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The Joseph Rowntree Foundation have today published five reports focusing on the impact of the recession on the people of Bradford. One study looked at the impact that involuntary unemployment can have on people’s mental health and well-being by investigating the coping strategies and emotional support that people require when they experience stressful life events such as unemployment.

The study was based on 16 focus group interviews with a total of 73 people (33 men and 40 women) who had involuntarily lost their jobs at any point since July 2008.

The study highlights five main issues that require policy attention:

  1. Addressing the financial burden of debt on people’s everyday life;
  2. Facilitating emotional support for unemployed people, particularly men;
  3. Improving people’s ability to keep a structure and a routine to their day;
  4. Addressing the ‘unhealthy’ coping strategies (substance misuse) adopted by some young unemployed men;
  5. Raising public awareness of the impacts of unemployment and hence reducing the stigma associated with unemployment and mental ill health.

The authors concluded:

The literature on the relationship between macroeconomic changes and population health shows that governments can play a crucial role in cushioning the effects of unemployment on people’s mental health by adopting policies that keep people in or reintegrate them into work.

At local level, the following interventions could contribute to promoting mental well-being and resilience among unemployed people at a time of economic recession:

  • developing local support groups of unemployed people (e.g. the Work Clubs recently promoted by DWP);
  • reducing waiting lists for psychological therapies;
  • strengthening cross-sector collaborations aimed at early diagnosis and intervention for people who develop mental health problems while unemployed (e.g. social prescribing);
  • strengthening services that help people with mental health problems to re-enter work.

Giuntoli, G. et al Mental health, resilience and the recession in Bradford (PDF). Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 25th July 2011.

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