Recent psychological research confirms what you probably already know: unemployment is toxic to happiness. Some studies show that the depressing effects of job loss are even worse than divorce. The blow is not so much about money as a loss of purpose and community.
For many, losing a job means much more than losing a paycheck: it means demoralization and loneliness. Worse still, one recent study shows that a bout of unemployment can depress life satisfaction long after landing a new job. Unemployment can leave a painful scar.
Staying busy and socially active is crucial. But nothing compares to quickly getting back to work. Of course, that's easier said than done in this economy. And the best advice for many may be the hardest to swallow: pull up roots and move to where the jobs are.
If you're near a city with lots of opportunity, it can make sense to stay put and search locally for something new. But when the one big employer in your small town shuts down, it's easy to fall into the trap of waiting for something to come around the bend -- of hoping your congressman will wrangle stimulus money for your hometown's shovel-ready salvation. But the longer you wait for a job to come to you, the worse the sting of unemployment can get.
Demographers say Americans are more rooted, less mobile than ever -- despite conventional wisdom. But the economy will recover faster if workers are willing to seek out and seize distant opportunities. And despite the pain of relocation, many of the unemployed will recover lost happiness quicker if they recover a little of that lost spirit of American mobility. Jobward, ho!
Will Wilkinson Will Wilkinson says if there are no jobs in your town, it may be time to uproot on Marketplace (January 28, 2009) [MP3]