Women more likely to experience anxiety when family members lose their jobs: Study

Women more likely to experience anxiety when family members lose their jobs: Study

Women are more likely than men to experience anxiety when a member of their family loses their job, according to research released this week by Melbourne University.

The study of 13,000 Australians also found daughters are more sensitive than sons to job losses, especially when it is their mother who loses her job.

Melbourne University researchers analysed data collected from the recent Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey, in the first study in Australia to consider the ongoing mental health and wellbeing affects within households that have experienced job losses.

Professor Mark Wooden, co-author of the report and director of the HILDA Study, told SmartCompany the data related to involuntary job losses, including individuals who had been fired or made redundant.

“It’s well-established that job loss and unemployment is a stressful event on the person who loses their job, but we wanted to recognise the effect on families, over and above any income loss,” Wooden says.

“People are home more often, they might be stressed and angry and unable to find a new job, and that spills over onto the family in all sorts of ways.”

According to Wooden, short stints of unemployment had little or no impact on the mental wellbeing of family members, whereas sustained periods of unemployment did, especially in households that were already under financial strain.

Women were far more likely to display symptoms of anxiety and depression if their husband lost their job but the reverse was not the case. Wooden says job losses by either parent had no impact on the mental wellbeing of the teenage sons analysed in the study, while daughters were affected in cases where either parent lost their job, but more so when their mother did.

“We think that has something to do with daughters being particularly sensitive to the emotional state of their mothers,” Wooden says.

While the study did not consider the size of the company from which individuals had lost their jobs, Wooden says all business owners should be mindful of the ripple effects of any decision to sack or lay off a worker.

“Small businesses are in a much better position than large companies to be aware of what is going on with their employees and their families,” he says.

“In companies with three or four employees, it would be pretty hard to be completely oblivious.”

Wooden believes SMEs would have more flexibility to help workers who are experience stress at home, as business owners and colleagues are more likely to “pick up the slack” if someone needs time off.

But in terms of minimising the number of job losses from a business, Wooden says small businesses are disadvantaged.

“In big organisations, the HR department may be able to absorb people for a bit longer or opt to use natural attrition instead,” he says.

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