Job Loss Tougher for Americans Than Europeans

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THURSDAY, June 19, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Getting a pink slip is never uplifting, but a new study suggests it's a bigger downer for Americans than for Europeans.

The study of more than 38,000 people in the United States and 13 European countries found that Americans are prone to developing depression if they become unemployed, compared to their European peers.

The finding was especially strong if the job loss involved workers at a plant that had been closed down. The study was published online June 19 in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

"In the U.S.A., the impact of job loss is significantly stronger for those with little or no wealth than for wealthier individuals, and the impact of job loss due to plant closure was stronger than in Europe," study leader Carlos Riumallo-Herl said in a journal news release.

He said that, by contrast, a person's level of wealth prior to losing his or her job didn't seem to matter when it came to how Europeans dealt with the emotional issues involved with unemployment.

Riumallo-Herl and his team looked at data from surveys that were conducted between 2004 and 2010. In addition to looking at U.S. data, they tracked statistics from 13 European countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Overall, job loss was associated with a 4.8 percent increase in depression among Americans, compared to a 3.4 percent rise among Europeans. Among those who lost their jobs due to plant closure, there was a 28.2 percent increase in depression among Americans, and a 7.5 percent increase among Europeans, the study found.

The reasons behind the disparity in how Europeans and Americans are affected by unemployment needs to be studied further, the researchers said. One reason might be "social protection programs" in European countries, which might be "buffering the impact of job loss among less wealthy workers and their families," Riumallo-Herl said.

"Job loss is a profoundly disruptive experience," Lisa Berkman, a professor of public policy and of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, wrote in an accompanying journal commentary.

"As economies become more globalized and job transitions more common, the identification and implementation of policies that enable both societal as well as personal resilience will becomes increasingly important. This new piece of research points us in the right direction," she said.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about depression.