Economic woes take toll on workers' mental health

Thu Mar 12, 2009 8:03am EDT
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By Ellen Wulfhorst

NEW YORK (Reuters) - One in five U.S. workers say the recession is causing them mental health problems, as they battle anxiety and fear over the potential loss of their jobs, new research shows.

Among 1,068 employed adults surveyed, 215 said the economic situation has had a negative impact on their mental health, while another 359 workers said their on-the-job stress level has increased. The survey was conducted online for employment agency Adecco USA from February 25-27.

"There's certainly been a pretty severe increase in stress, and stress is a precursor to anxiety and panic," said Dr. Elisha Goldstein, a Los Angeles-based psychologist who specializes in stress issues.

Workers are distracted as well, worrying about keeping their jobs, when layoffs might come or the fate of colleagues who already lost their jobs, he said.

"Companies start to become less effective. It starts to become a downward spiral, where an economic recession starts to become more of an emotional and mental recession," Goldstein said.

With job losses growing, company coffers shrinking and budgets tight, it's no wonder workers' mental health is taking a hit, public relations executive and lecturer Terrie Williams said.


"What's really difficult and very isolating about this experience is that people are walking around with that stuff inside of them. It's pretending that you're fine when you're really worried sick," said Williams, who suffered from depression and wrote about it in her book "Black Pain."   Continued...

<p>A display of employment tips pamphlets waits for job seekers at a job fair sponsored by employment website as part of their "Keep America Working" tour at a hotel in New York's Times Square, March 5, 2009. REUTERS/Mike Segar</p>