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The Effect Of Unemployment On The Mental Health Of Youths In Nigeria


The study examined the mental health effects youth unemployment on mental health in Akwa Ibom State. The study indicated that youth unemployment has many negative effects on mental health, economy, family, and individuals. From the response got from the questionnaires revealed that youth unemployment leads to poverty, low productivity, losses in foreign direct investment, low revenue generation, rural urban migration, illicit activities which increases insecurity, anti-social activities such as, prostitution, political thuggery, violence, criminal behaviour, restiveness and other social vices evident among the unemployed youths and this constitutes danger to the stability, growth and development of the state. The research concludes that, addressing the problems of youth unemployment, must involve all stakeholders. Suggestions from the analysis therefore, are that effective policy measures such as re-prioritization or revitalization of agricultural sector, reformation of educational system, provision of enabling environment and building of industries be pursued vigorously which will drastically reduce unemployment and poverty as well as eradicate the menace of youth unemployment in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State and Nigeria as a whole.





1.1    Background of the Study

Globally, the world is experiencing mass unemployment of qualified and able-bodied youths and these have generated much concern for both governmental and non-governmental organizations, public and private sectors of the economy. The global economic recession of the 1980’s has caused rapid deterioration in Nigeria’s economic industrial output. In the 60’s and 70’s youth unemployment was not pronounced like today because the government then were proactively involved in providing jobs for graduates churning out from various higher institutions.

Unemployment can have diverse impacts on a person; however one’s financial well-being may be most affected.  The inability to find a job can affect one’s family, especially when it is a single-income household (Bock, 2007).  Since the recession, housing has been on the forefront of many people’s minds.  In 2008, foreclosures increased by 81% and have increased by 225% since 2006.  Many banks placed a moratorium on lending, resulting in many unable to buy homes.  Although home prices are lower, for many they may be ‘underwater’ or owing more on the house then it is worth, causing additional financial stress and worries (Eley, 2009).

Unfortunately, unemployment has lasted longer than it has in the past since the Depression.  Prior to the recession, unemployment insurance was exhausted after 26 weeks.  By 2010 unemployment insurance had increased so that one could have unemployment insurance for an average of 99 weeks (Mulligan, 2011).  However, for many their unemployment outlasts the unemployment insurance’s 99 weeks.  The Census Bureau (2011) reports that unemployment benefits kept 3.2 million people from dropping to the poverty level last year which is $22,314 for a family of four.  In addition, it reports that the number of poor have risen by 46.2% about 1 in every 6 Americans.  That is 15.1% which is a 27-year high in the United States.  With the increase in poverty, many are taking advantage of programs such as food stamps.  In August of 2011, 46 million people received food stamps, which is a historical high (US Census).


Over the years, youth unemployment has taken a centre stage in most socials and economic discourse in Nigeria because the youths remain the greatest asset and the life wire of any nation. Youth employment in any nation is universally acknowledged as the basic source of survival and economic development (Ajaji, 2008). The central issue in mental health development is how to create conditions necessary for rapid and sustained growth and productivity where, the ultimate goal is to improve people’s quality of life and standard through production of goods and services at affordable prices, provision of basic infrastructures, reduce poverty, create employment opportunities and conducive political, religious, social and economic environment. (Echeriri, 2007).

In Nigeria, youth unemployment is soaring high despite laudable programmes provided by federal, states and local governments to curb the growing concern of joblessness among the teeming population of the country. Several governments both past and present have tried to solve this issue but day to day it increases. President Ibrahim Babangida’s regime from (1984-1993) was the first administration to be confronted with mass unemployment which led to introduction of National Directorate of Employment (NDE) to tackle the scourge of unemployment but to no avail. President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration (1999-2007) came up with the national Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP) but could not solve this menace.

President Umaru Yaradua’s administration (2007-2010) with the view of solving this problem initiated the seven (7) points agenda, yet no meaningful achievement was recorded and President Goodluck Jonathan (2011-2015) administration launched Youth Enterprise with New Innovations (YOUWIN) and Alhaji Bolaji Abdulahji the minister of youth also organized a youth forum to help youths realize their goals in life, still there is high prevalence of youth unemployment in the Nigerian Sectors (Ikemefula, 2012).

The level of unemployment in Nigeria as well as Akwa Ibom State appears to grow in geometric progression every year, in contrast to its regional neighbours most of whom have far less resources. Anameza (2000), stated that Nigeria will have no prospect of measurable development or of improving the welfare of its people; unless it enhances the chances of employment for its graduates. The menace of unemployment has increasingly been recognized as one of the mental health problems currently facing many developing countries like Nigeria and Africa as a whole.

Akwa Ibom State, with a population of over 4 million people and a vast spread of natural resource endowment has the potential to be the source of growth and prosperity for the whole region. The unemployment problem in Akwa Ibom State remains persistent and even growing by the day with labour force approximately 70% persons (mostly youths) annually moving into job market (Adelodun, 2006). Statistics of unemployment seems to consist, not of uneducated rural populations, who have been uprooted by failing agricultural production resulting from the absence of mechanization and decreasing incomes but also of some highly educated populations, as well, who normally, would form the core of the productive vanguard in a developing country. In other words, many of Nigeria’s unemployed and consequently poor are well educated even by European and American standards. Nigeria’s underemployment and low productivity constitute a vicious cycle that explains the endemic poverty in the country.

Overall, unemployment in Akwa Ibom State has affected youths from a broad spectrum of mental health groups, both of well and less educated, although it has particularly stricken a substantial fraction of youths from low income backgrounds and limited education. From the foregoing, it is obvious that unemployment, especially the unemployment of graduates, impedes the progress of Akwa Ibom State in many ways. Apart from economic waste, it also constitutes danger for political stability (Ipaye, 1998). It is disturbing to note that Nigeria’s graduates have limited chance of becoming gainfully employed. It is even more disheartening that the country’s economic condition is such that, it is hardly able to absorb an optimal proportion of the production of its own educational system. Gone are the days when employers went about looking for employees. It is now the turn of employees to move from one office to the other seeking for non-existent jobs. These days, thousands of young people are found waiting to be interviewed for just one, two or few vacant positions in some organizations or firms. Most people who cannot earn their living are prone to social vices. They look at themselves as second-class citizens for being unable to contribute to the society.

Akwa Ibom State and Uyo Local Government Area faced high rates of youth unemployment thereby leading to social vices and insecurity in the state. In Uyo Local Government Area, the only means of survival is politics, civil service, trading and farming. No day passes by without seeing youths roaming about the streets in various offices and business centres in search of job, through advertisement in various mass media such as Newspapers, Magazines, Handbills, posters, Billboards, Radio and Television announcements. Youths all over the country spend much time and huge amount of money surfing through the internet in search of job and some being tired in searching for job and labeled as idle ones have joined bad gangs and are involved in criminal activities and prostitution.

Youth unemployment is defined as young ones within the age of 18 – 35 years who are living in absolute joblessness. It also means young ones who are willing and able to work but cannot find work. Under-employment on the other hand, refers to people who are gainfully employed but not financially rewarded to authenticate their suffering and qualification (Onuh, 2011). Unemployment and underemployment has seriously confronted youths in Akwa Ibom State and Uyo Local Government Area. These are caused by several factors such as: rural-urban migration, corruption, socio-cultural constraints, poor educational system and high turnover of graduates from secondary and higher institutions, increase in government spending on political office holders. The state of unemployment can even lead to depression, low self-esteem, frustration and a number of other negative consequences (Ipaye, 1998).

Youth unemployment is a crucial issue in Uyo because the youth constitute a major part of the labour force and they have innovative ideas, which among other factors are important in the development process of the country. A large proportion of the youths however are unemployed. The negative consequences include psychological problems of frustration, depression, hostility and gradual drift of some visible unemployed youths into all manner of criminal behaviours (Okafor, 2011). Unemployment in Uyo generally is indeed a pathetic situation that calls for urgent attention, to address the mental health effects accompanied by it.

It is on this background that the study is undertaken with the view of examining the mental health effect of youth unemployment in Akwa Ibom State using Uyo Local Government as a case study and suggesting ways of improving and ameliorating youth unemployment in Uyo and Akwa Ibom State.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

      Youth unemployment in Akwa Ibom State is alarming as the rate is growing geometrically. Youth unemployment in the state is becoming unbearable as it threatens the growth of the state. It is apparent that youths in any society are the greatest assets of national development if given the opportunity of employment. Due to non-availability of ample employment opportunity in the state, the teeming youths with vibrant energy cannot contribute effectively and efficiently to the economic growth and development of the state but rather utilizes such energy in unacceptable means of satisfying their needs, wants and goals in life by engaging themselves in social vices such as mental health, criminal behaviour, violence, political thuggery, cybercrimes, fraud (419), murder, killing human beings and drug trafficking, with prostitution as the only means of survival. Our present society is not helping matters as it places much emphasis and values on materialism.

The problem of youth unemployment in Uyo and the state has also affected the local government area, individuals, families, communities, society and government, and has indeed hindered the mental health growth and development of Uyo and the state, thereby challenging the leadership and people of Akwa Ibom State as it brings about poverty, high crime rates and deviant behaviours, malnutrition, poor health condition which later results in high death rates (Brown, 2011).

The problems of youth unemployment are so devastating that Nwodo, (2011) wants the Federal and State Government to urgently address the growing issues of youth unemployment, insecurity and other social vices rampaging our country. Today, the numerous problems associated with unemployment are so enormous that Njoku (1997) asserted “Nothing can be more disturbing to an independent nation than a preponderance of unemployed youths”. Hence, Okoro, (2001) says “restive youths without employment, good housing and other decent conditions of living are bound to become miscreants in the society and deviant behavior will soon become the order of the day in their lives”. To this end Umanah, (2011), pointed out that unemployment has inflicted unprecedented social and economic havoc. It has both social, economic, political, health and psychological consequences on the individual and the society.

It is these seemingly insurmountable problems that necessitate this academic work, to ascertain the extent of the mental health effects of youth unemployment in Akwa Ibom State. The work will only focus on the state capital which is Uyo.


1.3 Objectives of the Study

  1. To explore the association between unemployment and mental health amongst young people in Nigeria
  2. To investigate factors that influence unemployment and mental health in Nigeria
  3. To explore government’s intervention to help protect the health of individual with mental health issues


1.4 Research Questions

The following constitutes the research questions for the study.

  1. What is the association between unemployment and mental health amongst young people in Nigeria?
  2. What are the factors that influence unemployment and mental health in Nigeria?
  3. What is government’s intervention to help protect the health of individual with mental health issues?

1.5 Research Hypotheses     

The research hypotheses are as follows:

  1. There is no significant relationship between youth unemployment and mental health of youths in Uyo Local Government Area.
  2. There is a significant relationship between youth unemployment and the level of criminal behaviour in Uyo Local Government
  3. There is a significant relationship between lack of industries and youth unemployment in Uyo Local Government Area



This study will be beneficial in many ways; it will serve as a tool for further research work for other researchers who will endeavour to carry out research in the same field in future. The study will help government to provide profer solutions as regard unemployment and its effects on youths mental health in Ibesikpo Asutan Local Government Area in particular, and Nigeria as a whole. It will further help scholars towards the advancement of knowledge, such as reference material, term paper topic, symposium and seminar presentation.

The study will serve as a guide and important tool in the fight against high level of unemployment. It will also serve as a base or premises for other researchers to challenge, amend, and provide corrections to the research work. The study will provide answers to various arms of governments in Nigeria about unemployment and its causative factors in the society, especially the youths.



The study will be restricted to Ibesikpo Asutan Local Government, which comprises urban and rural areas. It will restrict itself to one urban centre of Nung Udoe. And rural areas like Obot Idim, Okop Ndua Erong and Obio Aduang.

The study will familiarized itself with various conceptual words, such as unemployment, types of unemployment, youths, Nigeria, Ibesikpo Asutan, mental health among others.

The study will adopt Anomy Model postulated by Emile Durkheim as the theoretical framework for the research.


Various researchers have conducted research works on unemployment and its effects on youth in the society. For instance, International Labour Organisation (2010) found out that 35 countries for which data exist, nearly 40% of job seekers have been without work for more than one year and therefore run significant risks of demoralization, loss of self-esteem and mental health problems. More importantly, young people are disproportionately hit by unemployment.

Also in a study conducted in the United States of America (U.S.A) by Thooker (2011) shows that unemployment in the U.S currently stands at an eye-popping of 9.6%. There is 4 out of 10 Americans who want to work but unable to find a job. The situation is particularly affect the citizens who have been out of work for a long time and have therefore lost unemployment benefits that have expired. This situation has forced American government to budget more on social welfare packages for these unemployed youths, and therefore, causing strains on the other sectors of American economy.

White and Wyn (2004), postulates that unemployment is a single factor that affects young people, their families and communities. Today, youth unemployment has become a serious issue all over the world; approximately half of the unemployment group is of youth.

In Nigeria, Awogbenle and Iwoamadi (2010) concluded that youth unemployment was an impeding factor of developing economies. They argued that the situation had become more pathetic for hunting jobs not only for experienced and educated youth. They suggested juveniles to be self-employed through entrepreneurial process rather than to serve others.

Base on the above literature, non of the studies have given comparative analysis concerning unemployment and its effects on youths mental health in contemporary Nigeria.

This is why I had decided to focus my consequences on the contemporary societies using a case study of Ibesikpo Asutan Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State.


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