Unemployment: UCLA Study Shows Stigma of Joblessness Is Immediate

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Given all those facts, if "someone only looks at the unemployment status that would be incredibly surprising," Ho added. So even five percent, he said, is significant.

So the stigma is real, they add, and if the person remains unemployed for a long period, the stigma probably gets worse ("What's wrong with this person?") and that is only one of many disasters confronted by the long-term unemployed. It can even shorten their lives.

Researchers at McGill University, for example, found that unemployment increased the risk of premature death by 63 percent, based on research covering 20 million persons in 15 countries over the last 40 years. And that wasn't because they could no longer afford adequate health care.

"One surprising finding was that, in spite of expectations that a better health-care system might contribute to lower mortality rates, the correlation between unemployment and a higher risk of death was the same in all the countries covered by the study," the McGill study said.

Similarly, researchers at the University of Michigan found that the loss of a job can lead to a "downward spiral of depression and poor health."

Stigma of Unemployment Starts Quickly

The situation is particularly grim today, even with the economy improving, at least slightly. Many jobs have been lost to other countries, and many applicants lack the skills needed to compete in today's market. A study at Rutgers University concluded that many will never be employed again, causing some to question their own identity because they allowed their careers to define them.

And the latest study from UCLA shows that the downward spiral, and the stigma that goes with it, can come on fast and furiously.

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