Is COVID-19 Unemployment Causing Addiction?


The seemingly endless months of the COVID-19 pandemic have led to a dramatic rise in mental health issues and addiction among young people and working adults. Alongside social isolation and other public health measures, structural unemployment due to the pandemic has become a significant contributor. Raising awareness of how unemployment and addiction can be closely related is a necessary early step to solving the problem.

Why Does Unemployment Contribute to Mental Health Problems?

In non-pandemic times, the medical community has found and documented a positive association between unemployment and mental health issues. Those who become unemployed may experience heightened stress, anxiety, and depression when compared with the average working person. In other words, the financial strain brought by unemployment can cause poor mental health.

The impact of unemployment on mental health issues also has to do with how much social support one has during times of economic insecurity. Self-esteem scores among the unemployed hint that those who have support from family and friends tend to have better self-esteem and fewer negative mental health outcomes, even when unemployed.

Researchers find that other factors, such as gender, family roles, and social class, also play a role in how unemployment affects one’s mental health. For example, although marriage increases the risk of poor mental health among men who experience unemployment, for women, being married and living with children may serve as a buffer.

The knowledge of these patterns between unemployment and mental health is being challenged during the COVID-19 pandemic. The global shutdown brought what has become the largest structural unemployment crisis in history. Combined with social isolation to curb the spread of COVID, more men and women than ever before are suffering unemployment and mental health concerns.

What is Structural Unemployment?

Economists classify unemployment into three categories: structural, frictional, and cyclical, depending on the underlying cause in the economy. Structural unemployment refers to unemployment resulting from a mismatch of skills or interests between workers and the jobs available. This mismatch may occur due to a significant shift in the economic or political climate.

COVID-19-related shutdowns have caused the loss of many businesses and employment opportunities in the labor market. This external shock caused by a public health crisis has triggered structural unemployment on a massive scale. Voluntary unemployment is a contributor as well when people hesitate to work in high-risk service jobs that increase the risk of COVID-19 infection.

Another structural factor is the closing of schools and daycare centers. As a result, many working parents must give up employment to either teach or oversee remote learning. Moreover, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the COVID-19 recession has been much tougher on women, as the pandemic has affected industry sectors in which women’s employment is more concentrated, such as retail, hospitality, and health care. Working women are at a greater disadvantage because fewer jobs allow them to telecommute.

Why Have COVID-19-Related Issues Contributed to Addiction Susceptibility?

COVID-19 brought different levels of stress to different people. For many, there was stress from economic insecurity. For others, the stress came from the knowledge of impending illness. Still, others experienced stress over being stuck at home and navigating the ins and outs of remote schooling, working, connecting with loved ones, even grocery shopping. Stress was also derived from keeping up with the COVID response when people over-consumed negativity on the news which can impact mental health negatively.

People needed to find ways to ease these pains and anxieties. Unfortunately, drugs and alcohol are the most accessible options. Social isolation can weaken recovering individuals’ accountability structure. There has been a rising number of people relapsing and people who are experimenting with drugs and alcohol for the first time, developing new addictions. It is more important now than ever to advocate for healthy ways of coping without resorting to drugs and alcohol.

What Are Some Healthy Self-Care Practices?

Self-care begins with listening to your body and mind. If you feel overwhelmed by the stress and anxiety caused by COVID-19-related unemployment, know this wave of structural unemployment was outside of your control, but you can control your response to it. During a job search—or even daily non-employment-related tasks—try to set achievable goals daily. Do not over-stretch yourself or devalue your worth.

It is wise to unplug from too much news and learn how to adjust your mental wellness through meditation and mindfulness. Seek professional help if any mental health concerns come up or worsen, or if you’ve fallen victim to drug or alcohol dependence.

You can also rely on the support of family and friends. Go out of your way to reach out and do not be afraid to show vulnerability. Many people are in similar situations now, so there is no shame in sharing what you are doing. Allow yourself to rely on others, and let them help you through any mental health or economic struggles.

Have you experienced unemployment as impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic? Are you aware that being jobless can lead to mental health issues and expand your risk of substance addiction? We live in a time where unemployment and worsening mental health is a global issue, and social distancing and isolation might exacerbate the situation for many people who are struggling with job insecurity. If you are in a situation like this, it’s time to seek professional help. At Laguna Shores Recovery, our licensed mental healthcare professionals and therapists know how to help you build a strong support network. We have helped many individuals and families recover from substance addiction and mental health illnesses, as well as navigate the current job climate. Our inpatient and outpatient programs address a range of mental health issues during all phases of your recovery. We offer a range of treatments, including diagnosis, behavioral therapies, 12-step programs, and custom-made treatment plans. Call us at (866) 906-3203