Exploring the Relationship between Unemployment and Mental Illness among the Youth in Selected Communities in Eswatini

Studies have demonstrated that the effects and consequences of a lack of work has detrimental effects on one’s mental health. With high levels of youth unemployment presenting a threat to the country’s efforts to sustainable economic development the study seeks to understand the link between the increasing mental illness cases and rising youth unemployment in Eswatini. Using secondary data from the Health Management System, the study traces the areas that have high reported cases of mental illness and conducts 99 semi-structured interviews within these case areas. A rapid assessment is used to assess the relationship between mental health and youth unemployment. Using Jahoda’s latent deprivation model, the study finds that youth unemployment negatively affects mental health particularly through increased idleness and stress leading to high levels of substance abuse, which has a negative impact on mental health. The study also finds that mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression and sometimes schizophrenia are exacerbated by the lack of recreational and structured activities for out of school and unemployed youth in Eswatini. Therefore, policy makers should consider the impact of youth unemployment on mental health as a way of investing in Eswatini’s human capital, thus creating more economically productive interventions for youth to undertake during the periods of unemployment and being out of school.