Research shows that unemployment can have devastating effects on health. However, in Gallup’s article, “Unemployment Bad for Youth’s Health in Wealthy Economies,” their new polling analysis done between the years of 2013 to 2015 where they interviewed 477,253 adults aged 15 and older in 155 high-income-economy countries, shows how damaging unemployment can be for youths, especially in the United States.

The polling found, “Young people between the ages of 15 and 29 who are unemployed are about as likely to be thriving in their physical well-being (26%) as people older than 50 with a job (24%).”

According to the study, “Gallup and Healthways define physical well-being as having good health and enough energy to get things done daily. One of five elements of the Gallup-Healthways Global Well-Being Index, physical well-being includes two items that measure whether individuals have felt active and productive each of the last seven days and how they rate their physical health.”

When analyzing the study’s results, “Gallup and Healthways classify responses as “thriving” (well-being that is strong and consistent), “struggling” (well-being that is moderate or inconsistent), or “suffering” (well-being that is low and inconsistent).”

For this study, employed was defined as working full- or part-time and unemployed was defined as not having a job but searching for one. There was no distinction for those who were not looking for a job. 

When studying lower-income to upper-middle-income economies, the results shown for youths in higher income economies were not observed. Unemployed youth in these lower-income economies experienced a higher level of physical well-being compared to older employed adults. The study’s findings seem to be unique to unemployed youth in many of the higher developed economies, including the U.S. 

When it comes to the U.S., the study showed that employed adults have a higher physical well-being than unemployed youth. It seems your status of employment plays a bigger role in physical well-being than age. In fact, when it comes to U.S. unemployment, only 23-percent of youth felt they were thriving and 19-percent of adults over the age of 50. 

Previous Gallup and Healthways studies show a correlation between unemployment and unhealthy habits such as smoking, poor eating habits and depression. 

It also seems higher educated individuals suffer the most when it comes to their physical well-being. The study notes, “Among unemployed adults aged 15 and 29 living in high-income economies, physical well-being suffers more for those with the highest level of education. While more than a quarter of adults with an elementary or secondary education are thriving in their physical well-being, this figure drops to 15% among college graduates or those who have completed four years of school beyond high school.”

It seems that unemployed and higher educated youth in higher-income countries, especially the U.S. have quite a bit to lose when it comes to their physical well-being. 

The article concludes by saying, “The effect of unemployment is even more wearing on educated young adults in high-income economies. After years of additional studying, their hard work has not led them to a job. In addition, people in more developed societies may place certain stigmas on the highly educated who are unemployed.”


Gallup: Unemployment Bad for Youth’s Health in Wealthy Economies

Harvard Business Review: The Health Effects of Youth Unemployment