Unemployment can cause significant psychological damage to an individuals personality, according to a new study.
Behavioural scientists from the University of Stirling found that unemployment causes a persons well-being to worsen, possibly leading to “large changes” in their “core personality”.
While personality normally remains relatively constant over time, negative experiences – such as unemployment – reduces a person’s levels of “conscientiousness, agreeableness, and openness”.
According to the study, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, the longer people are out of work the less motivated, considerate and sympathetic they become. A claim which will undoubtedly be rejected and regarded as deeply offensive by some, if not all job seekers struggling to find work.
Lead researcher Dr Christopher Boyce, from the University of Stirling’s Behavioural Science Centre, said:
“The results challenge the idea that our personalities are ‘fixed’ and show that the effects of external factors such as unemployment can have large impacts on our basic personality.”
Behavioural scientists carried out two separate tests in a four-year study. All participants were in work when the study began.
A second test was carried out after four years; when participants were either still in a job, had been unemployed for one to four years, or had re-entered employment after a period of unemployment.
Researchers say the study suggests unemployed people are often “unfairly stigmatised” due to “unavoidable personality change”, leading to potential difficulties in helping them back into work and causing a negative impact on the UK labour market.
Those who had moved back into work after losing their jobs experienced only “limited change”, the study says.
Experts say policy making has a “key role” in preventing personality changes and urged politicians to create more policies designed to support unemployed people into work.
Dr Boyce said: “A high national unemployment rate may have significant implications across society.
“For example, high unemployment may hinder the development of desirable social and economic behaviours, such as participation in social activities and better health behaviours.
He added: “Policies to reduce unemployment are therefore vital not only to protect the economy but also to enable positive personality growth in individuals.”