A new AP poll shows virtually half of all people recently surveyed are now concerned about losing their job. That’s nearly double since the same survey was done last year. The ailing economy is driving some people well beyond just worrying and into something far more serious – something that’s being identified as recession depression.
A rising number of studies are associating the recession to health problems – in particular anxiety, heart disease and stress. For example, academics at the University of North Texas have found that three to five years after time periods of job loss and financial insecurity, there was a distinguished increase in the number of heart attacks. In the meantime, researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine report that surveys succeeding the collapse of the Soviet Union showed that the regions with the highest rate of job loss also had the highest death rates.
More recently, the Capio Nightingale Hospital, an independent mental health hospital in London, has reported a “dramatic” growth in stress-related cases in 2009. The hospital saw a 20% rise in the number of people looking for advice for stress-related problems in January. And The Priory Group, an independent provider of addiction services, has also reported seeing more patients from the finance sector who are suffering from stress-related illnesses.
National headlines have focused on suicides of top executives such as French businessman Rene-Thierry Magon de la Villehuchet, 65. He killed himself in his New York City office in December. The Washington Post reported he had lost more than $1.4 billion investing with Bernard Madoff, who has acknowledged losing $50 billion while operating a Ponzi scheme.
Along with plummeting 401Ks and rising unemployment, there is clearly a dangerous emotional price in the compounding economic crisis.
In times of soaring unemployment, suicide rates do go up, according to the American Association of Suicidology. Unemployed people have between two and four times the suicide rate of those employed, according to a report written by Dr. Alan L. Berman, executive director of the American Association of Suicidology.
While Berman emphasized there’s been no statistical correlation between suicide and subsequent U.S. recessions since the Great Depression, there may be grounds to be concerned during this downswing. The quantity of foreclosures, with more than one million people recently losing their homes, is nearly the same quantity that lost homes during the Great Depression, when the population was about half of what it is today, he wrote. And combined with unemployment, “home loss has been found to be one of the most common economic strains associated with suicide,” Berman wrote.
While being mindful of the state of the economy is important, there’s certainly a point where you can be too centered on the recession. If you’ve reached your breaking point, you can try these recession survival tools to break yourself out of the depression:
Turn the television off. The news can be like a train wreck sometimes. You know you aren’t getting anything beneficial out of listening to more bad financial news, but you just can’t look away. If the reports on the TV are starting to get you down, it’s time to just walk away. Read a book, play with the children, or do anything else that gets your mind off of the economy.
Find something positive in your life to value. There’s always something you can be happy about. In this time of climbing unemployment, having a job in itself is positive. If you’re able to make your house payments every month, you have something else to be cheerful about.
Decide not to let fear of the economy make your decisions for you. If you’ve scrimped and saved, for example, for a new oven, you should feel positive about carrying out your purchase. Don’t feel like you’ve got to squirrel away your savings in case the economy doesn’t recover right away. Assess your individual situation to determine what things are appropriate for you and your family.
Focus on what you are able to control. You can’t do a thing about the rising and falling of the securities market. You can, however, control how much you spend or save. Rather than distressing about the things you can’t change, give yourself a feeling of empowerment by taking control of things that are within your command.
Finally, key points for employers include: raising awareness of mental health and stress-related issues in the workplace, recognizing the essential contribution made by stressed or depressed staff, and the fact that these are problems which can affect anyone.