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Correlation Between Unemployment and Addiction

Clinically Reviewed By Dan Schimmel, LCSW, CAP
Updated On

The United States is faced with many problems, including a high rate of unemployment and addiction. On the surface, it may be difficult to see any correlation between the two. However, as you dig deeper, you will find that these problems are tied together in many ways.

One in Six Unemployed Workers are Addicts

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately one out of six unemployed workers are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. If that does not open your eyes, consider this: it is just about twice the rate when compared to those who work full-time.

If the numbers were closer together, when comparing unemployed to full-time working professionals, it may be easy to pass this off as a coincidence. However, this is not the case.

The survey showed that 17 percent of unemployed workers suffered from a substance abuse disorder over the past year. This is compared to only nine percent of full-time workers.

This leads to two very important questions: do long periods of unemployment push a person to substance abuse? Are people unable to find a job because they have an alcohol or drug abuse problem?

Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to the above questions.

One study, conducted by two university professors, came to the conclusion that the longer a person is unemployed the better chance there is they will turn to alcohol.

The study is quoted as saying:

“Among those who are unemployed, the leisure effect is dominating the income effect. We find that when the unemployment rate increases, all else equal, drinking increases.”

It doesn’t matter what side of the “chicken or egg” argument you sit on, nothing changes the fact that there is a definite correlation between unemployment and addiction. When you compare the unemployed to full-time workers, it is easy to see that those who are out of work have a greater chance of being addicted to drugs or alcohol.

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