This article summarizes research conducted in the past 20 years concerning mental health effects of involuntary job loss. The majority of studies and previous reviews focus on unemployment effects on men. Although these studies are also reviewed, this article highlights studies of (a) the involuntarily unemployed woman, (b) the spouse of the unemployed person, and (c) their children. Within each of these research areas, the authors consider studies grouped according to their methodological strength for drawing causal inferences about the impact of job loss on psychological status, ranging from cross-sectional to longitudinal to prospective studies. The implications of the unemployment literature not only for future research but also for clinical practice are addressed. Knowledge of family effects of this stressful life circumstance is critical to developing effective treatment plans for patients who, although perhaps not the direct victims of job loss themselves, may nevertheless present with problems indirectly caused or exacerbated by unemployment within the family.
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