Older Adult Unemployment in Spain: A Diary Study on Emotions, Affect Regulation, and Job-Seeking Behavior
Background: Throughout the 20th century, much research has been done on the effects of unemployment on psychological and physical well-being. Although most studies seem to draw the conclusion that unemployment generally has negative consequences for well-being, little is known about risk and protective factors in specific groups like older people. Moreover, the current adverse economic situation and some economical, geographical, and social factors unique to Spain, amplify the need to study Spanish unemployed older adults. Aim and hypotheses: The main goal of this study was to examine emotions, emotion regulation, social support, job-seeking behavior, and (un)healthy behaviors in a sample of older unemployed individuals. As a result, social and emotional factors influencing job seeking and well-being can be identified. Further, more insight can be gathered in the emotional experience of unemployed older adults. Information like this is necessary in better understanding how unemployment influences well-being, especially in older adults and during long-term unemployment, and in designing effective interventions. The following hypotheses are tested: Individuals that have been unemployed longer have more negative emotions than individuals that have been unemployed for shorter time (H1); Affect-improving self-regulation increases the levels of positive emotions and decreases the levels of negative emotions (H2.1); Interpersonal affect regulation influences emotions the same way, as well for the target (H2.2) as for the agent (H2.3); Negative emotions discourage job-seeking behavior (H3.1a), while positive emotions increase job-seeking behavior (H3.1b); Affect-improving regulation strategies (towards self and others) promote job-seeking behavior (H3.2); Job-seeking behavior itself increases negative emotions (H3.3a) and decreases positive emotions (H3.3b); Receiving social support (H4), exercise, and alcohol and tobacco use (H5) improve the unemployed person¿s mood; Relaxing exercises positively influence the unemployed person¿s well-being (H6). Method: A diary study was performed using smartphones. A special smartphone application and corresponding software were developed in order to facilitate data collection. The final sample consisted of 69 unemployed men and women between the ages of 53 and 64 years old. Participants had to fill out five short questionnaires on a daily basis during 25 days, using the smartphone that was provided. Before and after the diary study, the participants also completed a one-time larger questionnaire. Half of the participants were randomly assigned to an intervention, while the other half of the sample was appointed to the control group. The intervention consisted of listening to an audio file with relaxation exercises every night. The participants in the control group simply did not listen to the audio file. Analyses of covariance (ANCOVA) and multilevel analyses were carried out to interpret the data. Results and conclusion: The duration of unemployment did not influence daily emotions and general well-being. Thus, the way the participants felt was not due to whether they were unemployed for a shorter or longer period of time. The participants engaged very little in job seeking. Among the variables that explain the number of job search behaviors was the frequency of experiencing negative emotions. The participants that experienced more negative emotions engaged in more job seeking, but the participants that engaged in more job seeking also experienced more negative emotions. This indicates a complex relation between affect and job seeking: the consequence that negative emotional experiences are associated with job seeking can lead to avoidance behavior by the unemployed, creating a vicious cycle that prolongs their situation of unemployment and worsens their well-being. Among the variables improving the unemployed person¿s well-being are social support and physical exercise. Also, positive emotion regulation strategies, carried out by either the unemployed person themselves or someone else, resulted in more positive emotions and less negative emotions for the unemployed person. Interventions could therefore be aimed at the unemployed person¿s social network and their regulation of emotions, and could highlight the importance of exercise and make sports facilities more easily available. Finally, muscle relaxation and breathing exercises did not benefit the participants in any way. Limitations of this study include issues like non-normally distributed variables, sampling bias, self-report data, and lack of a control group. Future studies should take these issues into account. Upcoming research can replicate the current study among other populations and could focus on other variables, like specific emotion regulation strategies.
Tesis Doctoral leída en la Universidad Rey Juan Carlos de Madrid en 2014. Director de la Tesis: David Martínez Íñigo
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