Unemployment and Its Social Consequences


In the United States there is a big fear that the situation of unemployment will bring about a rise in all the levels of criminality. Unemployment is the case when a person is able to work, is also searching to find work, but still cannot find one. Many philosophers since the ancient times have written that for the human being to be able to do something and not having the possibility to do it can cause serious psychological problems. And, since the human being is a very social being, then many of these problems are transmitted to the social environment surrounding the person having them.

The last presidential election we say and hear that unemployment was given a very central role in the political arena of the United States. It was the central focus not only of the Democratic Party but also from the Republican Party. The question to be made is why unemployment is so important? It is so important because it can lead to many other social problems. In fact, unemployment is considered as a catalyst for other individual-social related negative phenomena.


The first problem that unemployed brings about is that now individuals are unable to earn money to meet their financial obligations. For example, many persons do live in house with mortgage payments. They have to find the money somewhere in order to pay the bank of the debt they have. Many others do not live on mortgages but have to pay rent. They also have to find the money somewhere to pay the monthly fee for their homes. Most of these people rely on employment to pay these above mentioned fees.

Failure to pay mortgage payments or to pay rent may lead to homelessness through foreclosure or eviction. And that is only the beginning of the social problems.

According to a study published in Social Indicator Research, even those who tend to be optimistic find it difficult to look on the bright side of things when unemployed. Using interviews and data from German participants aged 16 to 94 – including individuals coping with the stresses of real life and not just a volunteering student population – the researchers determined that even optimists struggled with being unemployed (Newswise, par. 1).

But there are some other more “terrific” aspects of unemployment. Different studies have shown that unemployment increases susceptibility to malnutrition, illness, mental stress, and loss of self-esteem, leading to depression. Let take examples for each of the above mentioned aspects. If a person is unemployed he, or she, has very much difficulties to purchase high quality food. Since these people have to strictly control their budget they tend to confine their nutrition to basic food. They do tend to take the cheapest food possible with a relevant quality. But if you want to have the highest quality, that quality that gives you the best nutritious elements, proteins and vitamins, you have not to go for cheap food. By going for cheap food these persons do not realize that the damage their organism. Of course, this is the very extreme of cases because still food products are some of the cheapest products. But if unemployment is persisted this situation can became reality.

Another issue is that of illness and health-care related issues. Health-related products are not so cheap in the United States. One of the first things after the “big fees” of the mortgages or rent, that people tend to cut when they are unemployed and have less revenue, is health care policy.

Another thing that people tend to cut from their spending is medical bills and drugs that may be needed for curative purposes. But this can lead to diseases, or the thriving of the disease an individual already has. There were several cases advertised in the media last year of unemployed people who risked dying in hospitals because they had no medical coverage, no health care policy.

As a final example I am quoting the study done in 2007 by the Virginia Tech, Department of Economics. Dr. M. Brenner conducted the first part of the study on the “Influence of the Social Environment on Psychology.” Brenner found that for every 10% increase in the number of unemployed there is a 1.2% in total mortality, a 1.7% increase in cardiovascular disease, 1.3% more cirrhosis cases, 1.7% more suicides, 0.4% more arrests, and 0.8% more assaults reported to the police. The second part of the study was conducted by Christopher Ruhm on the effect of recessions on health found that several measures of health actually improve during recessions. As for the impact of an economic downturn on crime, during the Great Depression the crime rate did not decrease. Because unemployment insurance in the U.S. typically does not replace 50% of the income one received on the job (and one cannot receive it forever), the unemployed often end up tapping welfare programs such as Food Stamps or accumulating debt. Higher government transfer payments in the form of welfare and food stamps decrease spending on productive economic goods, decreasing GDP.


Finally, I can say that unemployment is something that opens the door to many social problems. It is so influential that long-term can “destroy” the life of an individual.


2007. Even Optimists Get the Blues When Pink-slipped. Newswise.

Richard Ashley (2007). “Fact sheet on the impact of unemployment” (PDF). Virginia Tech, Department of Economics. Web.