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Study: Hartz IV sustainably harms life satisfaction


Unemployment a burden on life satisfaction
Losing a job and prolonged unemployment can bring considerable psychological stress and have a lasting impact on life satisfaction. A new study by the Freie Universität (FU) Berlin and the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) Berlin shows that life satisfaction among unemployed people is declining significantly. The cognitive perception of one's own well-being is crucial for this, while the emotional well-being is weakened less, the researchers report.

"Even long after a job has been lost, a study shows that unemployed people do not return to the level of life satisfaction they were at before unemployment," said the Freie Universität Berlin. However, the effects of unemployment on well-being are complex. In this way, the researchers were able to identify significant deviations in the emotional and cognitive perception of well-being. The scientists have published their results in the journal "Journal of Happiness Studies".

Emotional well-being less affected
In the current study, Jürgen Schupp, Director of the Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) at DIW Berlin, and sociologists Frederike Esche and Professor Christian von Scheve from the Free University of Berlin evaluated the SOEP data with a special focus on the consequences of unemployment. Based on data from 2007 to 2014, changes in life satisfaction and emotional well-being were analyzed before and after losing a job. The researchers were able to determine that life satisfaction dropped significantly as a result of losing a job, but this was "not so much due to the emotional state of affliction of those affected"; reports the Free University of Berlin. Instead, “the cognitive perception of one's own well-being plays an important role.”

Different emotions captured
According to the researchers, life satisfaction describes "the cognitive components of well-being, that is to say, summarizing assessments of the current state of health, whereas the emotional aspects refer to current emotional states." For the first time, the current study also enables "differentiated statements about the changes in specific emotions caused by unemployment" , since the emotions (fear, anger, sadness, happiness) were not considered in a summarized value for emotional well-being, the FU Berlin reports.

Sadness, joylessness and fear increase
When evaluating the data, the researchers found that "with job loss, life satisfaction declines sustainably and that unemployed people feel sadness and joylessness much more frequently in the long term." However, only a short-term effect could be demonstrated with regard to fear. Temporarily, there was a more frequent experience of fear after losing his job. However, according to the researchers, the feeling of anger was not significantly related to unemployment. The SOEP data also made it clear that changes in emotional well-being were independent of the personality of those affected. "In periods of unemployment, all people are more anxious than before or after - regardless of how anxious they are otherwise," emphasizes SOEP Director Schupp.

Understand the long-term consequences of unemployment
According to Professor Christian von Scheve from the Institute for Sociology at the Free University of Berlin, "Insights into emotions that go hand in hand with unemployment are important because they affect not only the well-being but also the way people think and act." It is therefore necessary to understand “what consequences there are for the emotional well-being of those affected,” adds Frederike Esche, research assistant at the Institute for Sociology at the Free University of Berlin. (fp)

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