unemployment-officeThe recession has effected Americans in more than economic ways. A national survey to learn what mental health toll the recession has taken upon people in the U.S. found that unemployed Americans are four times more likely than those with jobs to report symptoms of severe mental illness, including major depression. The poll consisted of a panel of 1,002 adults, aged eighteen and older. It also revealed that people with jobs who were forced to accept work changes, such as pay cuts or reduced hours, were at least twice as likely to have mental illness symptoms.

The survey was conducted for Mental Health America. It shows that economic difficulties equate with an increase in the potential for mental health difficulties. Major depression affects about 15 million U.S. adults (around 5-to-8% of the adult population) each year. The survey found that only half of people with major depression seek treatment, regardless of their economic or employment situation. Among the survey’s other findings:

  • 13% of unemployed people said they’ve had thoughts of harming themselves — a rate four times higher than for those with full-time jobs.
  • Unemployed people are about six times more likely to have trouble meeting household expenses. The survey shows that 22% report having great difficulty paying their utility bills, and nearly half said it’s difficult for them to obtain health care, which further compounds their situation.
  • Respondents without jobs were twice as likely to report being concerned about their mental health or use of alcohol or drugs within the last six months. Among those who hadn’t spoken to a health professional about these concerns, 42% said cost or lack of health insurance was the main reason.
  • Nearly 20% of respondents said they’d had to accept forced changes, such as reduced hours or pay cuts, during the last year. They were five times more likely to report feeling hopeless most or all of the time than people who hadn’t experienced a forced change at work.