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article imageHow unemployment triggers personality changes

By Tim Sandle     Feb 20, 2015 in Health
Stirling - A new tranche of research has found that longer-term unemployment alters people's personalities in different ways. This includes making people less agreeable and open, which, in turn hampers people who undergo such changes from securing work.
One of the big downsides of the recent global recession has been a rise in unemployment. As well as causing money worries and stress, a new study has found that the effect of not working can transform the basic personality of some individuals.
Whether personalities are fixed or in a state of flux is one of the controversial aspects of psychology and sociology. Many management text books, including the scores of personality inventory questionnaires which line the business section of bookstores, would argue that personality is fixed and something, like human capital, to be used as a business commodity. Other strands of thought, like existentialism, indicate that personality is something that can alter through individual choice. Alternatively, some sociological theories argue that the external environment, particularly the economic base, can alter behaviors.
The balance towards personality being something that can alter over time or with circumstance is drawn out of a recent study conducted by the American Psychological Association. The work was performed by Dr. Christopher J. Boyce, of the University of Stirling in the U.K.
For the evaluation, Boyce took a sample of 6,769 German adults (3,733 men and 3,036 women). These individuals undertook a standard personality test at two time points between 2006-2009. Of this group, 210 were unemployed for anywhere from one to four years during the experiment; whereas a further 251 of the people were unemployed less than a year but later secured jobs.
With the personality tests, the focus was on five personality traits: conscientiousness, neuroticism, agreeableness, extraversion and openness.
The primary findings were that men experienced decreased agreeableness if they were unemployed for two years or longer; and with women, agreeableness declined with each year of unemployment. It was also found that with conscientiousness, the longer men were unemployed for, the greater the reduction in this trait (this was seemingly connected with a steady income.) With women, the decline is conscientiousness occurred after a couple of years without work.
With openness, the levels decreased the longer men were unemployed. With women there was again a delayed effect, with openness only falling when they were unemployed for two years.
The study has been reported to the Journal of Applied Psychology, in a research report called "Personality Change Following Unemployment." The journal article can be accessed for free.
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