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The Happiness of the Unemployed Rises Again
If you’ve recently been laid off and are feeling down, the results of a new study may cheer you up. Researchers report that a year after losing their jobs, most people are as happy as they were before they were laid-off. The findings are particularly relevant given the grim economic climate in the country over the past couple of years.
The study followed a sample of German people up to three years before and four years after they lost their jobs. The premise was simple. The researchers asked the participants the following question every year: "How satisfied are you nowadays with your life as a whole?"
The majority of people (69%) reported being slightly less happy after losing their jobs but rebounded over the following year. Although these people started out with fairly high happiness ratings, the results showed that their happiness declined somewhat in the years preceding the job loss: this may suggest that they were aware of the possibility, so began reacting to it before the actual lay-off.
Another 15% of people revealed that their happiness was actually rising before the job loss; though it took a hit after the lay-off, happiness for these people rose at least as high as it had been pre-unemployment.
Some people (13%) started out less happy to begin with, and, not surprisingly, continued being unhappy after the lay-off.
And there was a small group (less than 4%) who, while quite happy before the lay-off, took unemployment very hard, reporting a sharp decline in happiness. Luckily, even these people tended to rebound in the following four years, and were almost as happy at the end of the study as they were at its start.
The authors also point out an interesting phenomenon that they found regarding happiness and the larger economy. They noticed that as national unemployment rates rose, people tended to report higher happiness levels, suggesting that they may feel "as if they have dodged the job-loss bullet." In contrast, as local unemployment rates went up, people report being less happy, which may suggest that when unemployment is closer to home, some people begin to worry that they might be next.
The researchers say that theirs is one of the first studies to illustrate the fact that there are many different responses to job loss, contrary to popular belief. Some people, depending on personal outlook and specific circumstances seem to view job loss as a temporary blip in their plan, while others are hit very hard by the loss. But the bottom-line of the study is still promising, and suggests that the vast majority of people facing job loss bounce back strongly after the initial reaction.
The study was published in the November issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology and Economics.
January 4, 2011
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