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26-11-2018 | Empirical Research | Uitgave 1/2019

Journal of Youth and Adolescence 1/2019

Young Adult Unemployment and Later Depression and Anxiety: Does Childhood Neighborhood Matter?

Journal of Youth and Adolescence > Uitgave 1/2019
Jungeun Olivia Lee, Tiffany M. Jones, Yoewon Yoon, Daniel A. Hackman, Joan P. Yoo, Rick Kosterman


Young adulthood represents a developmental period with disproportionately heightened risk of losing a job. Young adult unemployment has been linked to increased mental health problems, at least in the short term. However, their possible long-term impacts, often referred as “scarring effects,” have been understudied, possibly underestimating the magnitude of mental health burden that young adult unemployment generates. This longitudinal study examined whether duration of unemployment during young adulthood is associated with later mental health disorders, after accounting for mental and behavioral health problems in childhood. Furthermore, the current study investigated whether childhood neighborhood characteristics affect this association and if so, in what specific functional ways. Data were drawn from a longitudinal study of developmental outcomes in a community sample in Seattle. Data collection began in 1985 when study participants were elementary students and involved yearly assessments in childhood and adolescence (ages 10–16) and then biennial or triennial assessments (ages 18–39; N = 677 at age 39; 47% European American, 26% African American, 22% Asian American, and 5% Native American; 49% female). The current study findings suggest that duration of unemployment across young adulthood increased mental health problems at age 39, regardless of gender. Childhood neighborhood characteristics, particularly their positive aspect, exerted independent impacts on adult mental health problems beyond unemployment experiences across young adulthood. The current findings indicate a needed shift in service profiles for unemployed young adults—a comprehensive approach that not only facilitates reemployment but also addresses mental health needs to help them to cope with job loss. Further, the present study findings suggest that childhood neighborhoods, particularly positive features such as positive neighborhood involvement, may represent concrete and malleable prevention targets that can curb mental health problems early in life.

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