Unemployment harms not only one's own psyche, but to an almost equal extent that of one's partner, according to a study by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin). Whether the husband or wife loses his or her job does not make much difference.
"Both partners suffer significantly. However, since calculations have so far only taken into account the negative consequences for the unemployed person himself, but not for his partner, the costs incurred in the health care system are systematically underestimated," says DIW health expert Jan Marcus.
People who lose their jobs live unhealthier lives, smoke more often, divorce more often and die earlier. Many scientific studies have shown that. Almost all of these studies, however, focus on the unemployed person himself and not on his partner living with him in the same household.
DIW researcher Jan Marcus has analyzed data from the long-term Socio-Economic Panel study based at DIW Berlin to also examine the effects on the mental health of life partners. For his analysis, Marcus used a measure of mental health developed in medical research, the Mental Component Summary Scale.
To rule out the possibility that it was not poorer health that caused unemployment, Marcus limited the analyses to people who became unemployed due to plant closures and compared their mental health before and after the plant closure.
"The results are clear: Unemployment affects the mental health of a life partner almost as much as it affects the unemployed person," says Marcus. The overall impact is somewhat greater when the man loses his job, but in both cases the partners suffer about equally.
However, the study could only capture the short-term effects of unemployment, which occur within an average of eleven months after job loss.