The individual experience of unemployment

Annu Rev Psychol. 2012;63:369-96. doi: 10.1146/annurev-psych-120710-100500. Epub 2011 Jul 1.


This review describes advances over the past decade in what is known about the individual experience of unemployment, predictors of reemployment, and interventions to speed employment. Research on the impact of unemployment has increased in sophistication, strengthening the causal conclusion that unemployment leads to declines in psychological and physical health and an increased incidence of suicide. This work has elucidated the risk factors and mechanisms associated with experiencing poor psychological health during unemployment; less so for physical health and suicide. Psychologists have begun to contribute to the study of factors associated with reemployment speed and quality. The past decade has especially illuminated the role of social networks and job search intensity in facilitating reemployment. Evidence suggests some individuals, especially members of minority groups, may face discrimination during their job search. Although more work in this arena is needed, several intervention-based programs have been shown to help individuals get back to work sooner.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Mental Health*
  • Social Support
  • Suicide / psychology
  • Unemployment / psychology*
  • Work