In a longitudinal study, a representative sample of nearly 2000 young people (17-20 years) was followed up in 1985, 1987 and 1989. The Central Bureau of Statistics in Norway was responsible for the collection of data. The results showed that unemployment had a weak but significant impact upon mental health problems. Active job seeking did not seem to moderate the mental health problems experienced by the unemployed. Social support and contact with close friends had a moderating effect upon nervous symptoms in women but not in men. Unemployed men who were especially involved in illegal activity showed increased nervous symptoms during unemployment.