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UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Young, alienated, and excluded : youth labour force participation and mental health in Canada Minh, Anita

Abstract

This thesis explores the relationship between youth labour force participation and mental health. Unemployment is generally considered to have a negative association with youth mental health. However, few studies have examined youth mental health in association with being both out of the labour force and out of school (OLFS). I hypothesize that OLFS, a state in which youth are no longer job-searching and are not in school, has a negative association with mental health that is weaker in comparison to that of unemployment, which involves active job-searching. I further hypothesize that socioeconomic status (SES) and recession moderate the relationship between youth labour force participation and mental health, such that both unemployment and OLFS have a stronger negative association with mental health in youth of low SES, and during recession. Two empirical studies are presented to test these hypotheses. The first examines whether SES moderates the relationship between youth labour force participation and mental health, across three constructs of mental health : distress, depression, and life-satisfaction. The results indicate that unemployment is associated with poor mental health across all mental health constructs, and has a stronger association with distress among low-SES youth. OLFS is associated with depression only, with a stronger association among low-SES youth. Among high-SES youth, OLFS is also associated with better life-satisfaction. The second study looks at the relationship between youth labour force participation and mental health in the periods before (2003, 2005), during (2008-2009), and after the most recent global recession (2010-2012). The findings suggest that the recession was related to improvements in the mental health of unemployed youth but was not clearly related to the mental health of OLFS youth. The concluding chapter highlights the contributions of this thesis, addresses its limitations, and discusses implications for policy makers and for future analyses. Policy makers should consider the association between OLFS and mental health, and the effect modification by SES, when designing programs for unemployed youth. Future research can examine the mechanisms between OLFS and mental health across macrosocial contexts, and over the life course.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada