Can Long-Term Unemployment Alter Your Personality?

Teenage Girl Sitting Behind a Table Searching for Jobs in a Newspaper

By Jennifer Liu

Sure, you know being out of work for a while is bad for your bottom line.

But extended unemployment also has a negative impact on your personality, according to a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.It found that long-term unemployment makes people less agreeable, less focused and motivated, and less willing to try new things.

The survey collected responses from German adults twice over four years who had either remained employed over that period, been unemployed from one to four years, or lost a job and bounced back.
Interestingly, agreeableness among men actually increased during the first two years of unemployment, and was even higher than that of men who were still employed.

Why? The suspicion is that men are initially more likely to approach unemployment with high spirits in an effort to secure another job and appease those around them.

When it comes to focus, women were likely to be most motivated in the earlier and later stages of unemployment. Researchers theorize that after an initial (unsuccessful) job hunt, women may turn their attention to taking care of the family and household.

As for general openness to new experiences, unemployed men showed a steady decline the longer they were unemployed, while women experienced sharp reductions two to three years after losing their jobs—although they rebounded by the fourth year.

Christopher J. Boyce, who led the study, told Business Insider that these personality changes might occur because "the idea of not having a job weighs heavily on your psyche." And practically speaking, it's not easy to travel or check out new restaurants and events on a tight budget.
But there's a silver lining.

The study found that the majority of these personality patterns appeared to reverse once people re-entered the workforce.
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