The association between unemployment and psychological well being among ethnic minority groups in the UK today

Presenter
Natasha M Crawford, Institute for Social and Economic Research - University of Essex

Authors
Natasha M Crawford

Keywords
Ethnicity, psychological well being, unemployment

Background This study examines the potential moderating effect of ethnicity upon the association between unemployment and psychological well being. While a range of studies document a negative association between unemployment and psychological well being, the effect of ethnicity has not been examined outside of a specific occupational setting.

Methods This paper uses data from waves 1 and 2 of Understanding Society. The Ethnic Minority Boost component of Understanding Society, which samples approximately 1000 individuals from five target ethnic groups (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Caribbean and African), represents a unique opportunity to examine ethnicity in the UK today. Psychological well being is measured using the 12-item General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12). Due to its skewed nature, this measure is recoded as a binary variable. The main independent variable, employment status, is self reported. Ethnicity is introduced as a series of dummy variables. Logistic regression is used to examine the effect of unemployment on psychological well being.

Results Preliminary results identify differential employment outcomes according to ethnicity. Specifically, with the exception of those who identify themselves as Indian, all targeted ethnic groups have higher unemployment rates than those who identify themselves as white/British. Further, all targeted ethnic groups report poorer psychological well-being compared to our reference category; this is consistent with findings from other studies of an ethnic gradient in mental health. Unemployed individuals from each targeted ethnic group report poorer psychological well being compared to those who identify themselves as white/ British. We therefore expect the association between unemployment and psychological well being to differ according to ethnicity.

Conclusions Increasingly, mental health occupies a central place within public health policy. An understanding of the moderating effect of ethnicity upon the association between unemployment and psychological well being, as presented in this study, may therefore have implications for targeted mental health interventions and initiatives.