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Unemployment and health - for teenagers

unemployment; ;


Unemployment happens to many people and can be a stressful, depressing and guilt ridden time of life.

Unemployment is a reality for many young people. You may be skilled, qualified, willing to work, ready for work and desperately wanting a job, but this does not guarantee you will get work, because in many places there just are not enough jobs around for everyone. Many young people today, no matter what they do or how hard they try, just can't get a job!

If you really want to work and you can't get a job, it can have a major impact on how you feel, the choices you make and how well you can look after yourself. It can make you feel low, bored, frustrated or sick.

It's a health hazard

Here are some ways unemployment can affect health:

  • Boredom - Many people say the days become long and a reason to get out of bed becomes more difficult to find.
    • "Life tends to get a bit grey after a while, you just sort of sit and you're looking at the same four walls day in and day out. It (your life) just gets smaller and smaller." - Surviving Unemployment Project
    • "I just get up and think 'what can I do?' I can't think of anything to do." - Surviving Unemployment Project
  • Depression -You might start to feel low or upset, like you are a failure. You might start to feel there is something wrong with you. Sometimes people get so low they begin to feel suicidal.
  • Stress - The pressure! I bet you have heard things like "You are just not trying", "Try harder", "I had no trouble getting a job, why can't you?" "How are you going to pay the rent or the phone bill?" "How are you going to afford to buy clothes for your interview?" The list goes on.
  • Money - Money is something that helps you socialise, do fun things, buy new clothes, eat good food, buy any medication you need, look after yourself, have a nice environment to live in, etc. If you don't have a job you may not be able to afford some things that are important to your health.
    • "Then you've got to budget, okay this week I'll put $10 away to pay bills, next week - and then you forget about it and your bill comes in and it's $200". - Surviving Unemployment Project
  • Self-esteem - Work gives you confidence. It can do this by giving you a sense of belonging, worth and that you are contributing something meaningful to the community. Unemployment can make you feel the opposite.
    • "It's just like feeling that you are absolutely worthless because you've been on the dole for that long and you have no qualifications, you can't get a job, - after a couple of years of trying to get a job you just feel like - I mean if no-one wants me then fine, I'll just stay on the dole for the rest of my life" - Surviving Unemployment Project.
  • Loneliness/isolation - Humans are social beings! The chance of contact with others decreases when you aren't working.
  • Mental illness - Some studies show a link between unemployment and mental illness - things like insomnia (not being able to sleep), anxiety, and clinical depression.
  • Drug, tobacco and alcohol use - there is a link between unemployment and increased drug, tobacco and alcohol use.
    • "Stressed. Then that's where the drugs come into it a lot, it escapes you, you just want to escape the bills and escape the ... rent and escape this and escape that." - Surviving Unemployment Project
  • Physical health - people who are unemployed get sick more often and more seriously than people who are working.
  • Healthy eating - unemployed people might have a diet that is less healthy because of financial reasons or because they "just don't care".
  • There are links between unemployment and getting in trouble with police.
    • "If everyone had a job I don't reckon anything would get broken into or anything. Everyone has jobs so they'd all have money to pay for things, they wouldn't need to." - Surviving Unemployment Project.

Why do people need a job?

A job is more than just money. A job gives you:

  • something to do everyday
  • an identity - "I'm a plumber", "I'm a musician", "I'm studying"
  • purpose and direction - opportunities, career paths
  • friends and companions
  • an income.

A job can provide satisfaction, support, hope and fulfilment! Take it away and it is no surprise that we feel like we are sinking.

Hints to help out

If you can't get a job, (because there are just not enough to go around), there are things you and others can do to keep healthy and positive in your life!

Here are a few tips for keeping healthy on the inside and out:

  • Remind yourself that if you have tried hard, but been unable to get a job, it's not your fault!
    • "I reckon, if people were more encouraging instead of like putting people down all the time, you could cope." - Surviving Unemployment Project.
  • Be aware of how unemployment can affect you and your life. Stand up to how it affects you, so it doesn't take you over! Ask yourself things like,
    • "What is it that is making me feel depressed?"
    • "What is happening when I feel like I am useless, worthless or don't have anything to offer?"
  • Do things you enjoy doing, and try learning new activities. Have some fun - without feeling guilty. Go to your local youth or recreation centre and see if there are things you can do that are cheap or free. Give yourself permission to enjoy your life and enjoy being young!
  • Eat healthy food and get some exercise! Say bye to burgers or chips for dinner every night (it can be cheaper too!) and go for a walk, run, skate, skip, jump, swim, climb.
  • Cut down on cigarettes, alcohol and fatty foods. They keep you poor, as well as harm your health.
  • Make some plans. Plan your time so you have a range of things to keep you busy each day. This can be a good way to fill in your time.
    • "Things that keeps me going I guess are that I have more time for my hobbies, like I do rock climbing and I enjoy that. We have also just started a spinning and weaving course so we've got more time for our hobbies and that…" - Surviving Unemployment Project.
  • Spend some time with family and friends.
  • Look out for free health services for young people.
  • Get an income. Find out about any benefit you may be entitled to. It can be useful to find out about the rights and responsibilities you have with your benefit. Contact Centrelink. 
  • Use your skills and join with other people to begin a project or some enterprise. Start a market stall selling your wares, publish your poetry or build furniture, do handy-work, house-sitting or gardening. This can mean you are doing something to continue building your skills and also maybe make yourself little bit of income.
  • Become a volunteer! You can use your skills, learn new ones, meet other people and know that you are doing something worthwhile which may lead to future employment. Look at Vounteering SA-NT website for some ideas. 


South Australia

  • Centrelink - for social security benefits. 
  • Services to Youth Council
    • Job Pathways Program (JPP) - assists recent school leavers in the transition from school to work.
    • Job Placement, Employment and Training (JPET) - 15-21 year olds who are homeless, at risk of homelessness, a refuge, or under the guardianship of the state. Assistance entering education, training and employment.
      1800 807 364 (free call) or 8211 8466


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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor or other health professional.
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