Older American workers more depressed after layoff than Europeans

Laid-off U.S. workers aged 50–64 are more likely to be depressed than their European counterparts, according to a new study by Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers and colleagues. The researchers found that job loss was related to a 4.8% increase in depression rates in the U.S. compared to a 3.4% increase in Europe.

The study was published online June 18, 2014 in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

Although more studies need to be done, one possible reason for the difference may be that “Europe, overall, has more protective welfare systems that may reduce the negative effects of unemployment due to plant closure,” said lead author Carlos Riumallo-Herl, doctoral candidate at HSPH and research assistant at the London School of Economics and Political Science, in a CBS News story on June 19, 2014. “This research emphasizes the importance that social policies have in protecting the health of elderly individuals during hard economic times.”

“Job loss is a profoundly disruptive experience,” wrote Lisa Berkman, Thomas D. Cabot Professor of Public Policy and of Epidemiology and director of the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies at HSPH, in an accompanying commentary. “As economies become more globalized and job transitions more common, the identification and implementation of policies that enable both societal as well as personal resilience will become increasingly important.”

Mauricio Avendano Pabon, adjunct professor of social and behavioral sciences at HSPH, also participated in the study.

Read the abstract: Job loss, wealth and depression during the Great Recession in the USA and Europe

Read Lisa Berkman’s commentary: The hidden and not so hidden benefits of work: identity, income and interaction

Read CBS News article: Americans get more depressed over job loss than Europeans

Learn more

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