Depression Hits Jobless in UK, U.S. More Than in Germany

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Unemployed Britons are 15 percentage points more likely than full-time workers to report having ever been diagnosed with depression. The gap in depression rates between the unemployed and employed is a similar 13 points in the U.S., but is lower in Germany at 10 points.

The unemployed in the UK and U.S. are about equally likely to self-report a depression diagnosis – 25 percent vs. 24 percent. But unemployed Germans are much less likely to say they have ever suffered from depression, at 16 percent. Germans are also much less likely than Britons or Americans to report having been diagnosed with depression overall.

Still, in all three countries, those who are not working (unemployed or out of the workforce) are more likely to have ever been diagnosed with depression than those who are employed full-time.

The results are from Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index monthly tracking conducted January to September 2012 in the UK and Germany, and Gallup Daily tracking conducted in the U.S. from January through October. Gallup classifies those working at least 30 hours a week to be full-time.

Gallup has previously found that women and those with lower incomes are more likely to be diagnosed with depression in all three countries.

Part-Time Work Buffers Some from Depression in UK

In the UK, those who have at least part-time work appear to be better off than those who are completely unemployed. 17 percent of Britons working part-time but wanting to work full time report a depression diagnosis – lower than the 25 percent of the unemployed who do. The same is not true in Germany and the U.S., where those who are underemployed are roughly just as likely as the unemployed to report depression.

In Germany and the UK, the self-employed are the best off, while self-employed Americans are as likely as those who are employed full- time to have ever received a diagnosis of depression.

In the U.S., those who are out of the workforce are almost as likely to be depressed as those who are unemployed, 25 percent and 24 percent, respectively. This is not the case in Germany and the UK, where those who are out of the workforce are less likely to have been diagnosed with depression than the unemployed.

Implications

Those in the UK, U.S., and Germany who are employed full-time – whether for an employer or for themselves – are much less likely than those who are out of work to report being diagnosed with depression.  However, depression is less prevalent in Germany among both groups, providing a possible area for future research. If the lower rates are in fact due to less depression in Germany, not a lack of diagnosis, Germany could be a useful case study for other countries to learn how to better support their residents’ well-being.

Still, in the U.S. and Germany, those who are employed part-time but who want to work full-time struggle with depression almost as much as those who are completely jobless.

It is possible, of course, that the pre-existence of depression can reduce the likelihood that someone will be able to seek out and gain employment. The more intuitive explanation, however, may be the more likely of the two: that the absence of gainful employment increases the probability of a depression diagnosis. This latter scenario suggests that both unemployment and underemployment may have very serious costs to individual well-being – and on a larger scale can strain a country’s finances and healthcare resources. A study published in the Journal of Mental Health Policy Economics estimated that, in 2004, depression cost the EU 118 billion euro.

About the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index tracks well-being in the U.S., U.K., and Germany and provides best-in-class solutions for a healthier world. To learn more, visit well-beingindex.com.