Your Job, Your Life: Depression Strongly Influenced by Ability to Gain Work, Poll Says


By Stephen M. Pfeiffer, Ph.D.

One of the best defenses against depression is also one of the most elusive. A strong and positive sense of self immunizes against depression, but it is hard to build and maintain. Research has shown that the more roles people fill, the more sources of self-esteem they have. Meaningful work has long been one of the important ways to feel good about oneself.

Depression is a serious concern in the United States and a whopping one in 10 Americans suffer from depression. The latest poll at Gallup has found employment is the most significant factor when it comes to mental health and well-being.

According to the poll, unemployment, reduced working hours or having been removed from the workforce are each the strongest predictors of depression for American adults. Individuals who are unemployed or unable to work more hours are nearly twice as likely to be depressed.

Depression can affect individuals for a variety of reasons, but according to Gallup, employment was the strongest indicator from all 12 variables presented including age, gender, income, race/ethnicity, education, children, marital status, obesity, religion, health insurance and whether the survey respondent had worked as a caregiver.

Above all, factors surrounding unemployment remained the largest contributor to depression. However, whether a lack of employment contributes to depression, or whether individuals who have depression are unable to find work is unclear in the poll’s findings.

“The stubborn unemployment and underemployment rates may have more than just a negative impact on the nation’s economic recovery, they also may present a significant threat to Americans’ mental health and wellbeing,” the study quotes. “Additionally, depression among the employed has significant costs to individuals, businesses, and the overall economy. Gallup has found that depression costs U.S. employers $23 billion per year in lost productivity due to absenteeism.”

Other common factors most linked to depression beyond employment include age (22-64), income (less than $36,000 annually), race (identifying as “white”) and gender (identifying as “female”).

To read the entire poll and its findings, click here.


When it comes to depression, we can all work together to improve the outcome of mental health for countless Americans throughout the United States.

1. Let’s talk about it. Depression doesn’t have to be a stigma. The more we talk about it, the more likely we’ll be able to assess and treat mental health conditions in Americans today.

2. Get a no-cost depression screening. According to Gallup, individuals can get free depression screenings under the Affordable Care Act. When we are able to identify the problem, we can then begin the process of treatment in cooperation with the individual.

3. Encourage those around us to get treatment. If you know someone who is unemployed or struggling with work, start the conversation about their mental well-being. Being a source of help is monumental to someone grappling with depression due to unemployment.


PURSUE YOUR PASSION. Even if it’s just for 15 minutes, pursue one of your passions. Listen to your favorite opera on the ride to work. Learn new work skills so you can feel passionate about your work again.

RECORD YOUR EFFORTS. Give yourself credit where credit is due.

FOCUS ON HOW TO SOLVE PROBLEMS. Catch yourself when engaging in negative thinking and transform those thoughts into positive problem-solving energy.


Thousands of Americans throughout the United States are unable to work on account of depression. These cases which often include workers’ compensation can be straightforward or, more often than not, complex. For more information on medical-legal consultations, forensic evaluations, or even individualized therapy, log onto or email me at