New research suggests being unemployed may actually alter a person's "core personality" for the worse, making it harder to secure new employment, per the American Psychological Association. A study published in the APA's Journal of Applied Psychology looked at nearly 6,769 German adults who took a personality test at two points during a four-year period; 210 of the subjects were unemployed for one to four years during this period, while 251 were briefly unemployed but got another job within a year. Results showed the impact of joblessness on the "Big Five" personality traits: conscientiousness, neuroticism, agreeableness, extraversion, and openness. Among the findings: Men showed increases in agreeableness during the first two years of unemployment (compared to employed men), but those levels ultimately fell below those of men who had never lost their jobs. Women, meanwhile, became more disagreeable with every passing year of joblessness.
"In early unemployment stages, there may be incentives for individuals to behave agreeably in an effort to secure another job or placate those around them, but in later years ... such incentives may weaken," the researchers write. The study also found that, for men, conscientiousness and openness declined the longer they were unemployed. For women, openness decreased sharply in the second and third years without a job, then rebounded. As for conscientiousness, it actually grew for women toward the beginning and end of an unemployed period, but decreased in the middle. Lead author Christopher Boyce says that the findings are important in understanding how unemployment transcends economics; he adds that public policymakers should try harder to lower unemployment rates and offer greater support for the unemployed, AOL Jobs notes. (At least the first jobs report of 2015 offered some hope.)