The psychological meaning of job insecurity and job loss: results of a longitudinal study

Soc Sci Med. 1987;25(2):179-82. doi: 10.1016/0277-9536(87)90386-8.


This paper presents some results from a longitudinal intensive study of 26 shipyard workers during a period of two years. Unemployment was found to comprise a process consisting of a series of psychological crisis due to loss of important factors contributing to identity. The anticipatory phase was found to be a very burdening phase of unemployment due to the prolonged uncertainty. Despite good economic compensation depressive reactions were noticed. Other psychological reactions were irrational job seeking behaviour. The attitudes towards work were investigated. The central concepts of meaning of work was found to be unconscious and mediated early during childhood and to change very slowly. The shipyard workers tried to maintain an old working identity but especially the old, single men had difficulties to stand firm to it. Some of them intensifies alternative to work, like fishing, hunting and other activities and, in a way, continue to work. The single, older unemployed men were found to be a risk group.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychology, Industrial*
  • Unemployment*