Create Catalyze Communicate A-Ha Moments
A-Ha Moments

Layoffs, Loneliness, and the Decay of Social Capital

Written by: Bill Sherman on Thursday, 25 September 2008, 6:13 AM

t’s been a tough economy, and recently the unemployment level topped six percent. We typically think about unemployment in its short-term consequences, but there are also long-term impacts on individuals and their connection to the community.

There’s new long-term research that shows a layoff early in your career makes you more less likely to become involved with social groups throughout the rest of your life. Yes, one layoff can cause people to withdraw and stay withdrawn.

Specifically, people who were let go at least once were 35% less-likely to active within their communities than their continuously-employed counterparts.

Jennie Brand, sociologist at UCLA, based her research on a 45 year longitudinal study of 4,400 participants, and her research was published in September 2008 in the Journal Social Forces.

According to Brand,

“Workers who got flung out of their jobs during their peak earning years, between the ages of 35 and 53, were the most likely to withdraw from the social buzz throughout their lives . . . . being laid off doesn’t appear to be as socially damaging for older workers as younger ones,” Brand said. “The shame factor of downsizing your lifestyle just isn’t there, because your peers may be downsizing as well and you can play off your displacement as an early retirement even though it may be forced retirement.”

Tom Sander, in his Social Capital Blog, writes about “Only the Lonely Die Young” about current research on the health and behavioral choices of lonely individuals. Here are just two of many key points:

“Social isolation has an impact on health comparable to the effect of high blood pressure, lack of exercise, obesity, or smoking,” (quoting University of Chicago psychologist John Caciopo)

“That faced with a task of trying enough cookies to rate their flavor, on average, people who have been told that co-workers didn’t like working with them ate twice as many cookies as people who had been told that co-workers loved working with them.”

Layoff–>isolation–>individual health impacts

You won’t find these correlations in the daily news or in quarterly summaries of national GDP. Some people rebound quickly while other people withdraw (perhaps) the rest of their lives.

If you know someone who’s been laid-off (or have been laid-off yourself), consider these two statistics. What can we do to proactively weave people back, before they withdraw?

Something to say?

You must be logged in to post a comment.


    Wayback Machine Wayback Machine
    Now Reading


    Locations of visitors to this page