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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.

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