WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The longer Americans are unemployed, the more jobs they apply for, and the more interviews they go on, the less likely they are to rate their lives well enough to be considered "thriving." Worry, sadness, stress, anger, and diagnoses of depression all also increase significantly among the unemployed who report longer, more drawn out job searches.
Less than 4 in 10 unemployed adults (34%) who have been searching for a job for 11 weeks or more rate their lives well enough to be categorized as thriving, compared with 47% of those who have been looking for work for 10 weeks or less and 55% of all other national adults. Life ratings are also lower among the unemployed who have applied for 11 or more jobs or gone on 11 or more job interviews.
Gallup classifies respondents worldwide as "thriving," "suffering," or "struggling" based on how they rate their current and future lives based on the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving ladder scale.
Those involved in a lengthy job search also experience lower emotional well-being on a day-to-day basis. For example, a majority of unemployed Americans who have been looking for work for 11 or more weeks, have applied for 11 or more jobs, and have gone on 11 or more job interviews report that they experienced stress "yesterday," compared with less than half of the shorter term unemployed, and 35% of all other adults.
This analysis is based on a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted as part of Gallup Daily tracking between Dec. 21, 2010, and Jan. 9, 2011. While perhaps intuitive, the findings highlight the extent of the emotional toll and risks of long-term joblessness brought on by the current unemployment situation. These findings are also significant in that they apply to many of the unemployed; the same poll found that half of unemployed workers have spent 11 or more weeks actively looking for a job and roughly 40% have applied for 11 or more different jobs.
Hope a Distinguishing Factor for Well-Being of the Unemployed
Hope appears to be vital to mitigating some of the negative effects of long-term unemployment. Unemployed Americans who are not hopeful about their job prospects -- those who think they will have to settle for a job they don't want or who don't think they will have a job in the next four weeks -- rate their lives significantly worse than the unemployed who are hopeful.
Less than 4 in 10 unemployed Americans who are not hopeful about their job prospects rate their lives well enough to be categorized as thriving. In contrast, 57% of the unemployed who think they will get a job they want and 48% who believe they will have a job in the next four weeks are thriving.
Unemployed Americans who are not hopeful about their job outlook are also significantly more likely to experience a slew of negative emotions than are the unemployed who do hold out hope. Stress, sadness, worry, and anger are all higher for the non-hopeful unemployed than for the jobless who are hopeful.
The findings are particularly relevant as the same poll found that the majority of the unemployed believe they will have to settle for a job they don't really want and a plurality do not think they will get a job in the next four weeks, meaning that the unemployed non-hopeful group represents a large number of Americans.
The Path to Lower Well-Being
There is a clear connection between the low life ratings and emotional well-being among the non-hopeful unemployed and the unemployed who have been searching long and hard for work. It appears that the longer a person is out of work, the more likely he or she is to lose hope, which in turn, or in a compounding manner, affects the well-being of the unemployed.
The unemployed who have been looking for a job for 11 or more weeks are significantly more likely to say they have to settle for a job they don't really want (72%), and that they will not have a job in the next four weeks (58%).
Two types of unemployed individuals are the most vulnerable to declining well-being: those who have been grappling with a lengthy and cumbersome job search and those who are not hopeful about their job prospects. Unfortunately, these two groups make up a substantial portion of those who are unemployed in the United States. This means that millions of Americans who are without work are worried, sad, stressed, angry, and depressed, and are rating their lives in general lower, which adds up to a demoralized population that may lack the energy and motivation to succeed or find creative ways to climb out of joblessness. There are close to 14 million unemployed people in America, and if they don't believe in a brighter future for themselves ahead, this mindset could ultimately be problematic for the country as a whole.
About the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index
The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index tracks U.S. well-being and provides best-in-class solutions for a healthier world. To learn more, please visit well-beingindex.com.
Unemployed results are based on a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted as part of Gallup Daily tracking from Dec. 21, 2010-Jan. 9, 2011. Telephone interviews were conducted with a random sample of 15,120 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, selected using random-digit-dial sampling.
For results based on the subgroup of 1,145 unemployed Americans, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points. Unemployed Americans are defined as not currently working and either actively looking for work or not actively looking for work now, but saying they want to work 30 or more hours per week and saying they plan to actively look for work in the future.
The non-unemployed adult results reported for comparison in this article are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of from Dec. 21, 2010-Jan. 9, 2011, with a random sample of 13,246 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, selected using random-digit-dial sampling.
For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone-only). Each sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone-only respondents and 850 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, education, region, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2010 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in continental U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
View methodology, full question results, and trend data.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit https://www.gallup.com/.