The real brain drain: How unemployment depletes cognitive and emotional resources
How Unemployment Impacts Your Personality (Entrepreneur):
“Unemployment is no cakewalk. It’s well documented that an involuntary jobless state can take a steep toll on one’s emotional and physical health, and now new research illuminates a more subtle, if highly corrosive, consequence the inability to find work can have on a person. In short, it appears that unemployment has the power to change what we generally consider relatively fixed – i.e., it can alter our personality, making us less agreeable and less conscientious, while affecting our levels of openness, according to a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology…Self-reported personality results for the employed changed little from the first test to the second, but self-evaluations by the unemployed – particularly those who had been out of work for a long time –changed significantly. Levels of agreeableness, conscientiousness and openness were all depleted.
“The results are consistent with the view that personality changes as a function of contextual and environmental factors,” they write.
Study: Personality Change Following Unemployment (Journal of Applied Psychology; requires subscription)
- Abstract: Unemployment has a strongly negative influence on well-being, but it is unclear whether it also alters basic personality traits. Whether personality changes arise through natural maturation processes or contextual/environmental factors is still a matter of debate. Unemployment, a relatively unexpected and commonly occurring life event, may shed light on the relevance of context for personality change. We examined, using a latent change model, the influence of unemployment on the five-factor model of personality in a sample of 6,769 German adults, who completed personality measures at 2 time points 4 years apart. All participants were employed at the first time point, and a subset became unemployed over the course of the study. By the second time point, participants had either remained in employment, been unemployed from 1 to 4 years, or had experienced some unemployment but become reemployed. Compared with those who had remained in employment, unemployed men and women experienced significant patterns of change in their mean levels of agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness, whereas reemployed individuals experienced limited change. The results indicate that unemployment has wider psychological implications than previously thought. In addition, the results are consistent with the view that personality changes as a function of contextual and environmental factors.