skip to main content
Depression Hits Jobless in UK, U.S. More Than in Germany

Depression Hits Jobless in UK, U.S. More Than in Germany

But depression rates among unemployed are higher than employed in all three places

by Anna Manchin

BRUSSELS -- Unemployed Britons are 15 percentage points more likely than full-time workers to report having ever been diagnosed with depression. The gap in depression rates between the unemployed and employed is a similar 13 points in the U.S., but is lower in Germany at 10 points.

Depression Diagnosis by Employment status

The unemployed in the U.K. and U.S. are about equally likely to self-report a depression diagnosis -- 25% vs. 24%. But unemployed Germans are much less likely to say they have ever suffered from depression, at 16%. Germans are also much less likely than Britons or Americans to report having been diagnosed with depression overall.

Still, in all three countries, those who are not working (unemployed or out of the workforce) are more likely to have ever been diagnosed with depression than those who are employed full time.

The results are from Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index monthly tracking conducted January to September 2012 in the U.K. and Germany, and Gallup Daily tracking conducted in the U.S. from January through October. Gallup classifies those working at least 30 hours a week to be full time.

Gallup has previously found that women and those with lower incomes are more likely to be diagnosed with depression in all three countries.

Part-Time Work Buffers Some From Depression in UK

In the U.K., those who have at least part-time work appear to be better off than those who are completely unemployed. Seventeen percent of Britons working part time but wanting to work full time report a depression diagnosis -- lower than the 25% of the unemployed who do. The same is not true in Germany and the U.S., where those who are underemployed are roughly just as likely as the unemployed to report depression.

Employment and Depression Diagnosis

In Germany and the U.K., the self-employed are the best off, while self-employed Americans are as likely as those who are employed full time to have ever received a diagnosis of depression.

In the U.S., those who are out of the workforce are almost as likely to be depressed as those who are unemployed, 25% and 24%, respectively. This is not the case in Germany and the U.K., where those who are out of the workforce are less likely to have been diagnosed with depression than the unemployed.


Those in the U.K., U.S., and Germany who are employed full time -- whether for an employer or for themselves -- are much less likely than those who are out of work to report being diagnosed with depression. However, depression is less prevalent in Germany among both groups, providing a possible area for future research. If the lower rates are in fact due to less depression in Germany, not a lack of diagnosis, Germany could be a useful case study for other countries to learn how to better support their residents' well-being.

Still, in the U.S. and Germany, those who are employed part time but who want to work full time struggle with depression almost as much as those who are completely jobless.

It is possible, of course, that the pre-existence of depression can reduce the likelihood that someone will be able to seek out and gain employment. The more intuitive explanation, however, may be the more likely of the two: That the absence of gainful employment increases the probability of a depression diagnosis. This latter scenario suggests that both unemployment and underemployment may have very serious costs to individual well-being -- and on a larger scale can strain a country's finances and healthcare resources. A study published in the Journal of Mental Health Policy Economics estimated that, in 2004, depression cost the EU 118 billion euros.

About the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index tracks well-being in the U.S., U.K., and Germany and provides best-in-class solutions for a healthier world. To learn more, please visit

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey from Jan. 1-Sept. 30, 2012, with a random sample of 8,750 adults, aged 18 and older, living in Germany, and a random sample of 8,940 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the U.K., selected using random-digit-dial sampling. The U.S. results are based on interviews with 292,991 adults 18 and over, conducted between Jan. 1-Oct. 31, 2012.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±1.4 percentage points in Germany, 1.3 percentage points in the U.K., and 0.2 percentage points in the U.S.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellphones. Samples are weighted by gender, age, education, region, adults in the household, and cellphone status. Demographic weighting targets are based on the most recently published population data from the German Statistics Office. 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.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030