Thursday, April 16, 2015

Single Best Predictor of Depression: Unemployment

Two years ago, Gallup did a survey on depression. It was a very large survey (of more than 100,000 Americans). I describe the results in my book, Of Two Minds. In a nutshell, they found that depression was correlated with age and inversely correlated with income, but the strongest correlation wasn’t with income or age. It was employment status. According to Gallup:
For Americans, being unemployed, being out of the workforce, or working part time—but wanting full-time work—are the strongest predictor of having depression. Unemployed adults and those not working as much as they would like are about twice as likely as Americans who are employed full time to be depressed.
Americans who are not in the workforce are the most likely to be depressed, at 16.6%. Said Gallup: “It is possible that there is something about employment that contributes to lower depression rates, or it could be that those who have depression are less able to seek out and retain employment.” Either way, inability to find work is a strong predictor of depression.

What’s remarkable about these numbers is not their magnitude but that they aren’t worse than they are. The fact that only 16.6% of unemployed adults are depressed (and 83.4% are not) is nothing short of astounding, especially considering that we live in a victim-blaming culture in which your lack of ability to make a kazillion dollars is blamed squarely on you.

For more, be sure to check out Of Two Minds (sample chapters are available at

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