Youth unemployment remains a significant economic challenge, not only in developing nations but even for developed nations. India, one of the world's developing economies, suffers both unemployment and underemployment despite the government's evident efforts to eliminate the economic challenges. In a peer-reviewed article entitled Impact of Unemployment on the Mental Health of Youth in the Kashmir Valley, two researchers carried out a study whose primary aim was to investigate and establish the mental effects of unemployment and underemployment on the youths in Kashmir. The rationale for the study was that while unemployment and underemployment are economic challenges, their existence leads to mental challenges, which cannot be explained from an economic perspective but instead from a psychological point of view. The study was primarily grounded in the phonological theory. The researchers sought to establish the experiences of the unemployed youths in Kashmir, India, with the country's employment figures, the focus of analysis of the youths' mental states.
The guiding hypothesis for the study was that there would be a significant difference between the various dimensions of mental health such as anxiety depression, lack of emotional control, general self-esteem, psychological stress and wellbeing as measured on a global scale and the mental health index of the unemployed and employed youths living in Kashmir. The study worked on a null hypothesis that the mental health dimensions of the youths in Kashmir would be lower than the global mental health dimensions because of youth underemployment and unemployment in Kashmir, which had taken a toll of their general mental wellbeing.
The sample consisted of 200 participants, all youths aged between 18 – 25 years, and residents of the various districts of Kashmir who were selected through purposive random sampling. Of the 200, 100 were employed while the other 100 were unemployed. The participants voluntarily chose to take part in the study. A large number of participants, 100 for each group, was preferred by the researchers to help establish consistent patterns that would later be used to draw accurate conclusions based on the data collected. A small population sample, for instance, would not have served as an accurate representation of the youths across Kashmir and hence, would have compromised the validity of the findings of the study.
The researchers used the Mental Health Inventory (MHI) to assess the mental health of the participants and hence collect data for the study. Veit and Ware developed the Mental Health Inventory (MHI) in 1983 in 1983. The instrument is designed to provide an assessment of several aspects of mental health. However, for this study, the Mental Health Inventory (MHI) was used to provide the statuses of the participant's five major mental health issues, anxiety, positive affect, depression, behavioral control, and general distress. The full-length calibration of the Mental Health Inventory (MHI) is designed to assess 38 items commonly used in a wide range of populations. Out of the 38, 36 items are scored based on a 6-point system, while two are scored based on a 5-point system Likert scale. On the Likert scale, a score of 1 (the minimum) represents all the time, while a score of 6 (Maximum) represents none of the time. Both the subscale and total scores lie between 0-226. A higher score implies better mental health, while a lower score implies poor mental health.
The research study utilized an experimental research design in which the researchers sought to establish the relationship between a cause and its effect in each situation. In most cases, the experimental research design is a highly practical approach to research that seeks to offer solutions to existing problems by manipulating independent variables while monitoring the dependent variables' results. In this case, the researchers' focus was on establishing the relationship between youth unemployment, underemployment, and employment and the effect on the mental health of the youth in Kashmir. The three economic states of employment, unemployment, and underemployment served as the independent variables, while the different mental states were considered dependent variables. Hence, all the variables and the research objectives confirm that an experimental research design was deployed in this research study.
In the data collection phase, the researchers explained to the participants the purpose of the study. In some instances, the researchers were required to seek permission from relevant authorities to carry on with the research. Both the employed and unemployed youths in all the Kashmir districts were approached after the investigators had obtained permission from the authorities in the case of employed youths and individual consent for the case of unemployed youths. The investigators established a rapport with all participants before requesting them to voluntarily participate in the study and fully cooperate during the data collection process. The participants were further assured of the confidentiality of their responses, and all the data collected would be used for research purposes only. The participants were led through the instructions on the top of each scale and requested to sincerely answer all the prompts in scales. After receiving consent from the participants, the researchers administered the tests to the employed and unemployed Kashmir youth individually.
The data collected was analyzed using the T-test method, to analyze the implication of the variance between the two groups of participants, employed and unemployed youths, on mental health inventory. Besides the data on employment rates in Kashmir, there was a need to obtain a standard deviation from the global figures and the suitability of the method. Principally, a T-test was employed as a statistical analysis tool where the statistics assume a t-distribution for the null hypothesis. In this case, the T-test method was used to analyze the various scores posted by the participants from the Mental Health Inventory (MHI) test. The method was chosen mainly because the researchers wanted to increase the degree of confidence in the differences obtained as sufficient to represent a larger population, such as all the youth from Kashmir.
Under discussion, it was argued that unemployment among the educated youths in Kashmir was one of the critical social problems in the valley. It was established that there was a very high number of youths without jobs in Kashmir despite their academic qualifications. The number was found to increase every year as more young people complete college and other tertiary institutions. Similarly, insufficient job opportunities within the Kashmir valley was cited as the leading cause of the increasing unemployment rates. As a result, the study was conducted to address the increasing gap in the potential relationship between psychological distress and lack of employment, especially among the educated youths in Kashmir. Unemployment as a social issue becomes more pronounced and worth attention due to the large numbers of educated youth without any employment in Kashmir. The number of educated youths without jobs in Kashmir had been consistently increasing due to limited employment opportunities to absorb the educated youth population.
In this article, it was also discussed that previous studies had sought to address the potential of small-scale and large-scale industrial sectors to offer jobs to educated youths in Jammu and Kashmir and thereby reduce the unemployment rates among the youths. Such studies also suggested measures and policies that the state government implemented to establish a strong industrial base capable of creating enough jobs for the youths in the state. The researchers suggested more studies in the future to establish the major causes of failure by the Kashmir state and centrally-sponsored schemes to completely solve unemployment in Jammu and Kashmir. According to the existing literature, unemployment was found to increase stress and other negative effects, primarily on families, which exacerbate the victim's mental health.
The findings showed that unemployment had adverse effects on the mental health of the affected youths. For instance, unemployed youths posed higher scores in unhealthy mental states such as anxiety as compared to their employed counterparts. The findings were in line with previous studies conducted by previous researchers, in which involuntarily unemployed individuals showed higher scores in depression, anxiety, and stress. The study established that prolonged and continuous lack of employment opportunities and failure by individuals to secure employment would easily cause mental impairments besides significantly reducing individual wellbeing as well as the quality of life and hence depression, anxiety, and stress. Generally, unemployed youths showed higher scores in the five key indicators of mental health compared to employed youths. Previously, it was established that unemployed youths exhibited sadness, stress, and other symptoms of depression and lower wellbeing. Joblessness, as established by the study, also resulted in low self-esteem, negative mood, and external locus of control.
Despite the researchers' meticulous work in this article, two significant limitations may easily invoke the suspension of trust. The initial limitation is that the research does not recognize self-employment as a mode of employment, effective enough to bring down the rates of unemployment in Kashmir. As a result, the research only recognizes formal employment, and the youths under self-employment are considered unemployed. The mood in this article tends to discourage self-employment despite the potential of such ventures to bring in income and hence maintain good mental health. On the contrary, the researchers encourage the struggle for limited job opportunities when it is apparent that Kashmir's industrial sector cannot provide jobs for all the youths.
Another limitation of the study is that it does not discriminate between the various levels of education. Principally, different levels of education qualify one for different jobs. The assumption made in the study is that all the youth without jobs have equal academic qualifications. The assumption is wrong and might form the basis for wrong inferences. It would have been better for the research to develop a detailed classification of the unemployed youth's education levels, whether university graduates, tertiary college graduates, or any other level of education as obtained. Such data would be crucial in assessing the suitability of the unemployed youths to fit into Kashmir's existing job market.
One suggestion for improvement I would offer for this article is that the research needs to narrow down on more precise parameters. The effects of unemployment on mental health is a broad research topic. For instance, an individual's mental health does not only depend on whether one is employed on not, but other underlying factors affect the mind and hence mental health. Stress and anxiety, for example, do not only occur because of joblessness, but other reasons might drive an individual in stress and, eventually, depression. The same applies to low self-esteem and other negative moods that have been associated with joblessness in this article. However, picking on a more precise topic, such as the effects of unemployment on the quality of life, would be more realistic since the level of income directly affects the quality of life. In such a case, it will be right to incorporate poor mental health as a variable in the research study but not the primary causal effect.
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Bhat, R., & Joshi, J. (2020). Impact of Unemployment on the Mental Health of Youth in the Kashmir Valley. Journal of Psychology and Psychotherapy, 10(4), 7.