Although society provides supplemental security income to individuals with serious and persistent mental illness, those with less serious emotional disorders or sub-acute mental distress lack eligibility for these benefits. However, poor mental health status can result in significant negative effects on the worker, his or her family, and the local community and its economy. Given the smaller, less diversified rural economy, the lack of Employee Assistance Programs and mental health insurance benefits, and the shortage of mental health providers, the effects of mental health problems are likely to be exacerbated in rural areas. In this study, we will use the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth to investigate how mental health symptoms affect employment patterns, and the extent to which these effects differ by rural and urban residence.
Specifically, we will address the following questions:
Are there rural-urban differences in the prevalence of mental health problems, ranging from clinical conditions to sub-acute, undiagnosed mental and emotional stress among labor force participants/nonparticipants and employed/unemployed persons?
To what extent do mental and emotional symptoms and their severity predict lower job retention and longer unemployment spells and are there rural-urban differences?
Does the impact of mental and emotional health symptoms differ according to the type of job transition (left for another job, left for no new job, remained in same job but at reduced hours) and are there rural-urban differences?
Developing a better understanding of how mental health problems affect rural workers will not only assist health and human service providers in targeting interventions to workers needing support, but will also inform employers about how they might help employees continue to function productively on the job.