HealthDay News — Unemployed young adults have three times the risk of depression compared to their employed peers, a new study finds.

For the study, lead author Robin McGee, MPH, from the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta, and her colleague Nancy Thompson, PhD, an associate professor at Emory, used data from the 2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a national survey that assesses health risk behaviors. They specifically looked at people aged 18 to 25 to determine the extent of depression among unemployed young adults.

They found that nearly 12% of young adults were depressed and about 23% were unemployed. The risk of depression was three times higher for unemployed than employed young adults, according to the study.

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The authors speculate that the link between unemployment and depression might be the result of developmental factors, such as the uncertainty young adults feel as they transition to adulthood, and changes in their social relationships and support network.

Moreover, depression among unemployed young adults may be linked with stress because of delays in achieving life goals. Some young adults may experience stress similar to older adults, including stigma related to unemployment.

“Based on these results, we do not know whether unemployment contributes to depression or depression contributes to unemployment,” McGee said. “Unemployed emerging adults are a population that may benefit from mental health and employment-focused interventions. If these interventions are provided early, then we may be able to teach people skills that could have an impact over a lifetime.”

The report was published in the March issue of Preventing Chronic Disease.


McGee RE and Thompson NJ. Unemployment and Depression Among Emerging Adults in 12 States, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2010. Prev Chronic Dis. 2015; 10.5888/pcd12.140451.