Losing a job creates a ‘new normal’ for our wellbeing that never goes back to pre-unemployment levels, a new international study reveals.

Unemployment is damaging to employees wellbeing regardless of their age, gender, level of education, ethnicity or part of the country in which they live, according to a study by What Works Wellbeing. 

The study found that unemployment tops even divorce or widowhood in its impact on our life satisfaction, showing that some workers do not ever adapt to unemployment.

The longitudinal study of 24,000 people found on average that individuals had lower life satisfaction following unemployment which never recovered to the level measured when they were employed.

These results applied to both men and women, but the effects were stronger for men. Men were also found to be happier than women once in a new job.

But what type of job people were employed in was a major factor for feeling upbeat: temporary jobs fared worse for wellbeing than permanent work.

The research showed that a number of factors improved unemployed people’s wellbeing including social support and personality attributes.

Those who can rely on social support from family and friends perhaps obviously suffered less with unemployment, and the study shows that extroverts found unemployment less difficult than conscientious individuals suffer more.

The study also showed that other people being unemployed lessened the stresses of the stigma associated with unemployment. 

Professor Sara Connolly, of the University of East Anglia and a co-author of the study, commented:  

“Unemployment is very damaging for wellbeing whether you are a man, women, well or poorly educated, and whilst wellbeing improves upon re-employment this effect does reflect the quality of the job”





Rebecca joined the HRreview editorial team in January 2016. After graduating from the University of Sheffield Hallam in 2013 with a BA in English Literature, Rebecca has spent five years working in print and online journalism in Manchester and London. In the past she has been part of the editorial teams at Sleeper and Dezeen and has founded her own arts collective.