A Startling Statistic About the Health of Unemployed Youth in the U.S.“Thriving” well-being is defined by Gallup and Healthways as possessing consistently good health and enough energy to get things done during the day. According to the Gallup-Healthways Global Well-Being Index, unemployed youth aged 15 to 29 enjoy slightly greater physical well-being compared with employed adults aged 50 and older. In 47 high income countries, young and older adults were basically tied in terms of increased well-being, but with the unemployed youth slightly edging out their older, employed counterparts, twenty-six (26%) to twenty-four percent (24%).
That young adults have more energy than older adults is not too surprising, however, unemployed youth in the U.S. have worse physical well-being than older employed workers. Only 23% of youth were thriving compared to 31% of older workers. In summary, those without jobs in the U.S. between the ages of 15-29 are in poorer health than those who are 50 + and have jobs and this stands in contrast to the rest of the world. Even more surprising is that only 14% of unemployed youth with college educations have thriving well-being while those with just a secondary education or primary education have double that at 27% and 28% respectively. Why is the U.S. an anomaly? Why is America’s unemployed youth less healthy than the rest of the world?
One suggestion for why unemployment affects Americans more is the stigma of being unemployed and this stigma could be more profound the higher the education levels attained. Spain, for example, has an unemployment rate among its youth near 40% while in the U.S. in July, the rate was only eleven percent. One might deduce that a higher unemployment rate would contribute to poorer health but the physical well-being of Spanish youth is higher than that of youth in the States. The hypothesis is that because so many Spanish youth are unemployed at the same time, they feel less stigmatized. They are able to share the burden of unemployment together.
A second theory is a lack of family support. A far greater number of unemployed youth living in lower and middle income economies worldwide, live with others, especially family, compared with many American youths who live alone. Physical well-being is often tied to emotional well-being and so an absence or the minimal provision of emotional support often provided by family, could adversely affect the health of American youth.
These statistics highlight a troublesome trend among America’s unemployed youth which should be monitored to ensure troublesome healthcare issues don’t arise especially among those with advanced education.
Beyond monitoring these healthcare issues we need to take a closer look at the source of the problem. Do Americans place a greater burden to succeed on themselves as compared with inhabitants of other nations? Those with higher educations, for example, have greater expectations placed on them to accomplish their goals and when they fall short, they appear to fall harder than most. What, if anything, can be done to provide greater support and well-being for those in their early stages of life so that they don’t end up on mom and dad’s couch?
How much work is too much work? Do workers reach a point when an excessive amount of work so fatigues them mentally and physically that their productivity takes a hit and their health declines?
The Draugiem Group conducted a study which tracked employees’ work habits. They discovered that employees that took short breaks of around fifteen minutes every hour were much more productive than those who tried to power through without stopping.
The brain operates in a high energy mode for about an hour and then in a low energy mode for fifteen to twenty minutes. For most, during these low energy periods, they are distracted and their productivity dips. By powering through this distracted period rather than taking a break and refueling, a lack of focus may continue even during the high energy period. The study found that those who took a break for fifteen minutes, and completely disengaged from work, could recommit 100% of their focus on their task once they re-engaged.
We see from a daily perspective how our minds and productivity are affected by too much continuous work but how about on a weekly basis? The Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, have researched the mental and physical effects of a forty plus hour work week. Below is a collection of their findings.
- Working more than 10 hours a day is associated with a 60 percent jump in risk of cardiovascular issues.
- Working more than 40 hours a week is associated with increased alcohol and tobacco consumption, as well as unhealthy weight gain in men and depression in women.
- Little productive work occurs after 50 hours per week.
- In companies with normal overtime, only 23 percent had absentee rates above 9 percent. In companies with high overtime, 54 percent had absentee rates above 9 percent.
- Individuals working 11 hours or more of overtime have an increased depression risk.
- Injury rates increase as work hours increase. Those who work 60 hours per week have a 23 percent higher injury hazard rate.
- In manufacturing industries, a 10 percent increase in overtime yields a 2.4 percent decrease in productivity.
- In white collar jobs, productivity declines by as much as 25 percent when workers put in 60 hours or more.
Working too much in one day and in one week can produce detrimental side effects to an individual’s productivity and physical well-being, but how about in a year?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that in 1976 more than 9 million Americans took vacation while in 2014 that number was down to only 7 million. According to research by the NY Times, taking a vacation every two years significantly reduces the risk of coronary heart disease as compared to taking a vacation once every six years. In addition the research suggests that workers are more productive after returning from vacation. Ernst & Young conducted a study of its employees and discovered their employees’ year-end performance ratings improved eight percent for each additional 10 hours of vacation they took and in addition those who took frequent vacations were less likely to leave the firm. Additional studies also suggest that frequent vacationers suffer less from depression and possess higher emotional levels.
For many taking a break whether it is every hour, every day, week or year, probably feels very counter- productive, but as you can see from the research above, taking one step back on the beach in your flip flops might enable you to take two steps forward in the office.