Being out of work for a long time is one of the worst things that can happen to you. Your work skills atrophy, and you're more likely to be depressed. Your earning potential falls. Even very basic skills can decline — one study found that people who lost their jobs did worse on tests of reading and basic math abilities.
That's the bad news. Here's the worse news: Those effects seem to be long-lasting. Income setbacks during a recession can stay with you throughout your career — for example, studies of people who graduate into a recession show that even decades later, they're not earning as much as people who graduated into sunnier environments. But a new study from Europe seems to show that even cognitive declines are persistent.
People who experience multiple economic recessions in mid- life may be at higher risk of cognitive decline, according to a study made public in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
Men who didn't live through any recession in their mid- to late 40s had an average cognitive score of negative 0.07 at ages 50 to 74, compared with a score of negative 0.12 for those who experienced four or more recessions, according to an analysis of data from 12,000 people in 11 European countries. The research, published this week, was led by Anja Leist, a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Luxembourg.
Cognitive decline may result from layoffs, enforced part-time work, and the need to take salary cuts and accept lower-status work, according to the authors.