BACKGROUND: Earlier research shows that there is an association between unemployment and poor mental health, and that recovery from the damages to mental health obtained during unemployment remains incomplete over a long period of time. The present study relates this 'mental health scarring' to the trade cycle, exploring if those exposed to youth unemployment during boom differ from those exposed during recession with respect to mental health in the middle age.
METHODS: The sample consists of two cohorts from the same industrial town in Northern Sweden: the cohort born in 1965 and the cohort born in 1973 included all pupils attending the last grade of compulsory school, respectively, in 1981 and in 1989. Their depressiveness and anxiousness were assessed by questionnaires at age 21 and again at age 43/39. Mental health at follow-up was related to exposure to unemployment during age years 21-25. Statistical significance of the cohort*exposure interactions from binary logistic regression analyses were used to assess the cohort differences in the mental health between Cohort65 and Cohort73, entering the labour market, respectively, during a boom and a recession.
RESULTS: Compared to the unexposed, high exposure to unemployment at the age from 21 to 25 was associated to increased probability of poor mental health in the middle age in both in Cohort65 (odds ratio 2.19 [1.46-3.30] for anxiousness and 1.85 [1.25-2.74]for depressiveness) and in Cohort73 (odds ratio 2.13 [1.33-3.39] for anxiousness and 1.38 [0.89-2.14] for depressiveness). The differences between the cohorts also turned out as statistically non-significant.
CONCLUSIONS: The scars of unemployment exposure onto future health seem to be rather insensitive to economic trades. Thus, at the population level this would mean that the long-term health costs that can be attributed to youth unemployment are more widespread in the generation that suffers of recession around the entry to the work life.
2016. Vol. 15, 14