Unemployment stress: loss of control, reactance and learned helplessness

Soc Sci Med. 1986;22(5):509-16. doi: 10.1016/0277-9536(86)90016-x.


The present study was concerned with stress-related consequences of unemployment and the behavioral changes related to this experience of control loss. Subjects were sampled along a continuum of time since unemployment, including a control group of employed subjects. Results indicated evidence of stress responding among the unemployed subjects, measured as increased levels of urinary catecholamines and behavioral performance deficits. Further evidence is presented which analyzes subjects' attributions and behaviors in terms of the theories of reactance and learned helplessness. Results support a biphasic response to loss of control with reactance manifested at early stages of control loss and learned helplessness at later stages.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological / physiology
  • Arousal / physiology
  • Attention / physiology
  • Epinephrine / urine
  • Helplessness, Learned / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Norepinephrine / urine
  • Problem Solving / physiology
  • Self Concept*
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*
  • Unemployment*


  • Norepinephrine
  • Epinephrine