TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- A new study finds that the recession has left many jobless workers struggling to cope with the psychological stress caused by becoming unemployed in a weak economy.
Researchers at the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University said the financial strain that comes with being out of work combined with the sometimes daunting task of seeking new employment in a difficult job market has left many Americans "traumatized."
"Psychologically, it's a world of hurt out there for the jobless," Cliff Zukin, a Rutgers professor and co-author of the study, said during a conference call with reporters.
Zukin said "significant numbers" of respondents have had trouble sleeping since losing their jobs, have strained relations with family members and increased alcohol and drug dependency. Many also say they now avoid social situations.
The report released Thursday is based on a survey of 1,200 Americans who have been unemployed and looking for a job for the past 12 months. Two-thirds of respondents reported being depressed. More than half said they have borrowed money from friends or relatives. One quarter said they have skipped mortgage or rent payments.
Meanwhile, just 40 percent received unemployment insurance, and 83 percent of those who got aid said they're concerned the benefits will run out before they find a job. Half said they didn't have health insurance.
The survey found 60 percent of the recently unemployed lost their jobs without warning, while just 15 percent got some type of severance and almost none were offered retraining. More than half lost their jobs for the first time, while 40 percent had held the same job for three or more years.
"The jobless have had to face the fact that their old jobs, incomes, and work identity are gone," Zukin said.
Job loss also has hit more affluent workers and educated professionals hard, the survey found. More than a quarter of those unemployed for the first time earned $75,000 or more a year.
"This is not your ordinary dip in the business cycle," said report co-author and Rutgers professor Carl Van Horn.
"Americans believe that this is the (Hurricane) Katrina of recessions. Folks are on their rooftops without a boat. The water is rising, and many see no way out."