HealthZette

Unemployment Wrecks Young Adults’ Health

Out-of-work millennials are aging faster than their 50-year-old counterparts

Considered the most educated generation, millennials are now also the most unemployed generation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a 12.7 percent unemployment rate among people aged 18 to 29 last month.

The stress of not having a job is taking a toll. Research from a recent Gallup-Healthways Global Well-Being Index showed unemployed young adults can expect a health rating concurrent with that of a 50-year-old employed person. Only 23 percent of unemployed millennials are said to be “thriving” — or consistently having good health and enough energy to get things done each day.

“I am seeing a lot more chronic health issues, including diabetes, thyroid disorders, morbid obesity, and swelling disorders,” said one psychologist.

That equates to poor health for 77 percent of unemployed young adults.

“I see a lot more young adults who are caught in a difficult place,” said Dr. Gretchen Kubacky, a psychologist in Los Angeles, California. Kubacky works with young adults who are suffering from health issues; she sees young patients struggling.

“The idea they will outdo their parents has been crushed. They feel lost, unsupported, hopeless. And I am seeing a lot more chronic health issues, including diabetes, thyroid disorders, back problems, morbid obesity, and swelling disorders. These are conditions we usually see in people in their 50s and they are happening in 20-somethings. This affects their choices and their futures,” she told LifeZette.

Related: We Need New Millennial Voices

The more educated a person is, the worse unemployment appears to affect them, the Gallup-Healthways study showed. Unemployed millennials with college educations thrive at just a 14 percent rate, compared to 27 percent of those with secondary school educations.

[lz_bulleted_list title=”Millennial Unemployment in U.S.” source=”http://www.generationopportunity.org”]The effective unemployment rate for 18-29-year-olds, which adjusts for labor force participation by including those who have given up looking for work, is 12.7 percent (NSA).|The declining labor force participation rate has created an additional 1.8 million adults that are not counted as “unemployed” by the U.S. Department of Labor because they are not in the labor force, meaning that those young people have given up looking for work due to the lack of jobs.[/lz_bulleted_list]

The stigma of being unemployed, especially when someone has graduated from college and lives in a high-income country, is creating yet another psychological burden for many millennials. Unemployed youth also tend to be more isolated in the United States. Many young people live alone, or live with parents who are working, which leaves them alone a great deal of the time. Research shows isolation is a factor in addictive behaviors, such as overeating, using drugs, and drinking alcohol.

The stigma is felt by parents of young adults, too. Ann Hill (not her real name) of Dallas, Texas, was so tired of explaining her daughter’s work situation that she stopped talking to friends.

“It seems that’s the first thing they ask,” Hill said. “It’s so depressing to put all the effort into getting a kid through college, and feel like you failed. My daughter is in such a down place right now, no one will hire her. She has had therapy and she’s taking antidepressants, but it hasn’t helped. She’s in a total rut. I’m working even more to support her, so I can’t be there a lot.”

Related: Millennials See Power in ‘Laziness’

Hill’s daughter was previously overweight, but has become obese during the two years since her college graduation — and was recently diagnosed with diabetes. Her situation raises questions about how to serve unemployed youth in a way that leads to meaningful work.

Kubacky believes Hill’s dilemma is quite common today.

“Unemployed youth are demoralized and hopeless, which leads to an ever-decreasing motivation to excel,” she said. “Their thinking tends to be: ‘I’ll never get to a six-figure salary at this rate, which means I’ll never be able to buy a house or start a family, so I might as well just take it easy.’ They tend to lose sight of slow but steady growth, and the fact that hard work and savings now will almost inevitably pay off in the future.”

“It’s easier to get a job when you have a job, regardless of what that job is.”

She also says lethargy leads to more depression and poor eating habits. She encourages millennials and their parents to embrace better eating habits and exercise in any form possible. “Unemployment often leads to depression, which leads to oversleeping, overeating, and other unhealthy behaviors that further affect body image and self-esteem.”

Getting moving can be hard when college graduates were accustomed to exercising in state-of-the-art college gyms or yoga studios that charge hefty fees — but Kubacky said the benefits of simple walking can work wonders. She encourages entire families with an unemployed child to get more active — immediately. Day trips to a state park can get the family out of the doldrums and get them moving.

She also recommends unemployed millennials find and create their own networks, and explore their parents’ networks, too. She encourages her patients to move ahead financially, even if it’s a small step.

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“It’s easier to get a job when you have a job, regardless of what that job is,” Kubacky said. “So if that means working as a barista, staffing the desk at SoulCycle, or working gigs on Fiverr, that’s what they should do. They’ll make a little money and regain some self-worth, maybe build a few marketable skills, and increase their confidence by getting positive feedback. You never know who you’re working for, never know who you’re handing that coffee cup to. Being out in the world leads to connections, which lead to ‘real’ jobs.”

Pat Barone MCC, is a professional credentialed coach and author of the Own Every Bite! bodycentric re-education program for mindful and intuitive eating, who helps clients heal food addictions.