Impact of Mental and Emotional Stress on Rural Employment Patterns

Research center:
Project funded:
September 2004
Project completed:
March 2008
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, the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth was used to investigate how mental health symptoms affect employment patterns, and the extent to which these effects differ by rural and urban residence.

Specifically, the following questions were addressed:

  • 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. Findings from this study will include a working paper, presentations at national conferences, and submission to a peer-reviewed journal.


  • Rural-Urban Differences in Work Patterns Among Adults With Depressive Symptoms
    Maine Rural Health Research Center
    Date: 03/2008
    This study addresses poor mental health among young to middle-career rural residents and how their employment may be affected. Using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, the authors investigate how depressive symptoms affect employment patterns and the extent to which such effects differ by rural and urban residence.