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Well-Being, Decision-Making and Unemployment in Europe

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Childhood self-discipline and mental health in predicting future job success

Given the importance of employment to the wellbeing of youth, the relationship between self-discipline early in life and job success has not been dealt with sufficiently. An EU initiative set out to do just that.

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High jobless rates among youth across Europe can negatively affect their state of health and happiness. Can chronic youth unemployment in part be explained by children who grew up lacking self-control or experienced psychological distress? Or is this bad state of mind simply a sign of a sluggish economy and labour market? To address the questions, the EU-funded WEDEPLOY (Well-being, decision-making and unemployment in Europe) project sought to explore the link between wellbeing, job decisions and unemployment primarily by using available data from several existing British cohort studies. Overall, the goal was to develop a model of unemployment that focuses on youth unemployment and self-control. Researchers examined to what degree poor mental health in childhood can help explain the choice to be unemployed later in life, and how this explains psychological consequences and resulting mental state. Using two cohort studies that observed over 10 000 children throughout adulthood, project partners found that children with low self-control were more likely to be out of work as adults. Lastly, one million observations from two cohort studies showed that children who suffered from psychological trauma remained unemployed much more often when looking for work as young adults. Major findings were presented in three major papers that were published in two leading scientific journals. WEDEPLOY will enable researchers to better assess and develop employment activation programmes targeting the specific needs of youth. Beyond traditional indicators, policymakers can now use self-control and mental health as powerful forecasters of employment status. This should help to tackle the widespread undesirable impacts of joblessness in Europe.


Self-discipline, mental health, wellbeing, youth unemployment, self-control

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