Highly Distressed Teens at Higher Risk of Unemployment as Adults

A new study is showing that highly distressed adolescents in 2000 were 32 percent more likely than peers with low distress to be unemployed over the following decade, after taking into account variables such as intelligence, family upbringing, physical health, gender, socioeconomic status and race.
The study of U.S. teens, available online and set to be published in the May 2016 issue of Social Science & Medicine, was authored by Mark Egan of Stirling University in the United Kingdom; Michael Daly of Stirling University and University College Dublin; and Liam Delaney of both universities.
The authors said that the impact of high distress was similar to a one standard deviation decrease in intelligence, and double the magnitude of having a serious physical health problem.
"The highly distressed were also disproportionately more likely to become unemployed or exit the labor force in the years following the Great Recession," they said.
The main analysis of the study used 7,125 adolescents, including 2,986 siblings to control for family upbringing, drawn from data from the National Longitudinal Study of Youth 1997. The participants were born between 1980 and 1984 and interviewed on an annual basis since 1997. 
When the authors adjusted results for educational attainment, they found that different levels of education only partly explained why the highly distressed experienced more unemployment.
In discussing their results, the authors speculated that anxiety and depression could have directly impaired job performance and work attendance for the highly distressed, leading to less positive evaluations by employers and adversely affecting job retention.
Another possibility could be that searching for a job is "a psychologically demanding process requiring reserves of perseverance, motivation and self-esteem" that "may be particularly challenging for highly distressed individuals."
A third possibility is that employers may be biased against hiring or accommodating employees with mental health issues, the authors said.
In summing up the significance of their study, the authors said the results "lend credence to the potential economic benefits of investment in adolescent mental health services." They also said the results point to the potential value of job programs that "offer fully voluntary access to appropriate mental health services where needed."
The role Healthify plays in addressing the needs of highly distressed adolescents and other vulnerable populations is by providing them a way to efficiently connect to social programs that can help them, such as mental health services.
Healthy's focus on making those connections through technology comes from an understanding that social determinants of health such as mental health, poverty and housing can have a greater impact on a person's health than clinical care.
And in a country where nearly 44 million adults experience mental illness in a given year but only 40 percent receive treatment, this new study further drives home the need to make access to help as easy and as straightforward as possible.
Topics: social determinants of health health disparities public health

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