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Andres Gonzalez Manzano, 53, reacts as he waits for his eviction to be carried out in Madrid March 3, 2014. Gonzalez, a former construction worker and private guard who is 33% disabled in his right arm, stopped making his rent payments to the Municipal Housing and Land Company (EMVS) in October 2010, soon after his wife passed away. Gonzalez says he gets 426 euros ($585) per month from the state, but his monthly rent is 568 euros ($780) and he cannot afford to pay it. His apartment, where he was currently living with three other unemployed people, was sold by the EMVS to a private investor company who carried out his eviction on Monday. REUTERS/Susana Vera (SPAIN - Tags: SOCIETY BUSINESS) - RTR3G05T Andres Gonzalez Manzano, 53, reacts as he waits for his eviction to be carried out in Madrid March 3, 2014. Gonzalez, a former construction worker and private guard who is 33% disabled in his right arm, stopped making his rent payments to the Municipal Housing and Land Company (EMVS) in October 2010, soon after his wife passed away. Gonzalez says he gets 426 euros ($585) per month from the state, but his monthly rent is 568 euros ($780) and he cannot afford to pay it. His apartment, where he was currently living with three other unemployed people, was sold by the EMVS to a private investor company who carried out his eviction on Monday. REUTERS/Susana Vera (SPAIN - Tags: SOCIETY BUSINESS) - RTR3G05T  

Gallup: Being Unemployed Is Depressing

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Matt K. Lewis
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      Matt K. Lewis

      Matt K. Lewis is a senior contributor to The Daily Caller, and a contributing editor for The Week. He is a respected commentator on politics and cultural issues, and has been cited by major publications such as The Washington Post and The New York Times. Matt is from Myersville, MD and currently resides in Alexandria, VA. Follow Matt K. Lewis on Twitter <a>@mattklewis</a>.

A survey by Gallup confirms what we already knew: Being unemployed for a long time is depressing.

Okay, technically speaking, while they can’t confirm the causal relationship (could it be that depressed people are more likely to lose their jobs in the first place?), I’ll go out on a limb and speculate that, yes, NOT HAVING A JOB IS DEPRESSING!

What is more, it’s a vicious cycle: “The loss of hope that can accompany long-term unemployment may be detrimental not only to job seekers’ quality of life, but also to their ability to find good jobs,” Gallup’s Steve Crabtree notes.

Anyone who has ever observed that it’s harder to enter into a romantic relationship after you’ve been dumped will immediately understand this Catch-22: Nobody will hire you if you’re depressed, and/or (obviously) if you’ve given up. And this fact leads you to spiral even deeper into depression.

Anecdotally speaking, this confirms a lot of things I have always known. First, we are created to have a purpose, and meaningful work is certainly a part of that larger purpose (not all work is fulfilling, of course, but human spirit flourishes when people feel they are contributing to society and taking care of their families.) And second, momentum matters: A body in motion tends to stay in motion, while a body at rest … you know the line.

This is all good advice for individuals to consider. But from a public policy standpoint, I also think these findings should inform how we handle issues concerning unemployment.

For example, instead of just paying people not to work via unemployment benefits (and watching them slowly descend into depression), maybe we should also think about relocation vouchers — or simply providing lump-sum bonuses to incentivize the long-term unemployed to accept positions they might otherwise turn down (because the pay isn’t commensurate with experience). And isn’t this another argument against pricing people out of the job market by raising the minimum wage?

The psychological toll of unemployment is an additional negative externality that we ought to consider when crafting pubic policy, and I would suggest that this is something conservatives have inherently understood better than liberals.