Friday, July 25, 2014

The rescue of the drowning…

A recent epidemiological study has found “job loss linked with higher incidence of depression in Americans compared with Europeans.” The authors attribute this difference in mental health outcomes to the more generous benefits extended to the unemployed in West European countries. Part of the explanation, though, could lie in the stronger emotional and economic support the unemployed tend to receive from friends and family this side of the channel. The press release does not say if the authors think they have a solution – or “intervention” – up their sleeve to could help alleviate the plight of the laid-off. One colleague who commented on the study did venture a remedy, though.

Dr Lisa F. Berkman, Thomas D. Cabot Professor of Public Policy and of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, made the following suggestion: “Job loss is a profoundly disruptive experience. As economies become more globalized and job transitions more common, the identification and implementation of policies that enable both societal as well as personal resilience will becomes increasingly important. This new piece of research points us in the right direction.” Yes, as a slogan made famous by Soviet satirists Ilf & Petrov once proclaimed, “the rescue of the drowning lies in the hands of the drowning themselves.” Or, as Ulrich Beck put it back in the 1990s, we are all reduced to seeking "biographical solutions" to systemic problems – and the sooner everyone gets used to this, the better.