About this study
This is the first national study dedicated to examining the
psychological health and wellbeing of Jobseekers Allowance (JSA)
claimants. It was commissioned by the Health, Work and Wellbeing
Directorate at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
The findings indicate that common mental disorders (CMDs) like anxiety and depression contribute to poorer employment outcomes, in part because by their nature, they erode beliefs about abilities and optimism about the future. But entering employment can support recovery.
More broadly, the study has shown that mental health is rooted in the context of people's lives. Poor physical health, low levels of social support, neighbourhood context and adverse life events all play a role in whether or not someone will experience a decline in mental health during a period of unemployment. However, there is an important distinction for policy-makers to consider between people who arrive on JSA with relatively stable employment histories having developed symptoms of distress as a result of recent life events, and those for whom a mental health condition is one issue among an array of longstanding life adversities.
Potential Policy Impact
Neurotic symptoms form a wide spectrum and are common among
jobseekers. This partly stems from their wider adverse social and
economic circumstances. It is important that the impact of this
wider context is recognised by the staff who have contact with
claimants. People with even relatively mild neurotic symptoms have
lower confidence in their work-search abilities. Support aimed at
improving perceptions of job search self-efficacy should be
targeted widely, and not just at those with the most severe
neurotic or other mental health symptoms. It may not be evident to
staff which claimants have mild neurotic symptoms.
Some findings suggest that it may be beneficial to consider how best to bring up the issue of mental health and identify needs associated with mental health among claimants. People described reluctance to admitting to having mental health problems. However, where health was discussed with a PA this was generally found to be helpful, though its discussion was not widespread and there was evidence to suggest that health discussions tended to focus more on physical health problems.
The respondents for this study are people of working age and who have recently claimed Jobseekers Allowance. The study is made up of three parts: