Along with the German reunification came massive changes in the economy of East Germany. It had various consequences, among others, several people losing their jobs and having to change their career paths. Until today, despite an economic upswing in the past years, the unemployment rate in the new federal states about twice as high as in the West Germany.

Unemployment has been an important topic in the Saxon Longitudinal Study since the 1990s. Since the 16th wave, the health consequences also represent one focus of the study. When querying about unemployment for the first time in 1996, already 50% were affected by unemployment once or several times. The participants were at this point around 23 years old.

Abbildung: Arbeitslosigkeitserfahrungen 1996-2018 (Experiences of unemployment) (c) (r) Prof. Dr. Hendrik Berth, Sächsische Längsschnittstudie

In 2008 over 70 % of the participants were affected by unemployment once or several times. The apparent decline of the unemployment rate after 2008 may be possible to explain with the fact that the participants had “forgotten” the experiences of unemployment in the previous years. For calculations, the maximum reported experiences are used. There are big differences between men and women. Women were affected by unemployment for about twice as long at all survey times. In 2018 (30th wave) the median duration of unemployment for men was 7,5 months and for women 14,5 months.

Abbildung: Arbeitslosigkeit und psychische Belastung 1996-2018 (Unemployment and psychological distress) (c) (r) Prof. Dr. Hendrik Berth, Sächsische Längsschnittstudie

The figure indicates that the psychological distress of people that have experienced unemployment once or multiple times is significantly higher than the burden of people who were never unemployed. As a measurement tool was used a self-development of the Saxon Longitudinal Study, the Distress-Score (D-Score). These differences (e. g. depressiveness or quality of life) can also be found in many other established psychological measuring instruments. It is represented in numerous publications of the study. However, experiencing unemployment has also a negative effect on the physical health of those affected.

Abbildung: Arbeitslosigkeitserfahrungen und Nikotinkonsum 2004-2018 (Experiences of unemployment and nicotine consumptiom) (c) (r) Prof. Dr. Hendrik Berth, Sächsische Längsschnittstudie

The figure illustrates a relation between smoking and the experience of unemployment. The percentage of the smokers is considerably higher in the groups with unemployment experiences, than without. When it comes to alcohol consumption, body weight, physical complaints or the subjective state of health, there can also be found similar differences. Therefore, unemployment experiences affect negatively both mental and physical health.


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