(CNN) -- America's extended recession, with its high level of long-term joblessness, is taking a toll on mental health, according to an article in the American Journal of Public Health.
"Longer durations of unemployment predict higher levels of depressive symptoms among young adults" ages 29 to 37, said Krysia Mossakowski with the Department of Sociology at University of Miami in Florida.
Her article, which is appearing in the October edition of the journal, looks into how past unemployment and its duration predict depression among Americans. She said the total number of times unemployed wasn't critical, but the time spent without a job was.
"The economic hardship associated with unemployment when looking for work during young adulthood can be chronically stressful even if it is intermittently experienced, which has been referred to as 'living on the edge,'" Mossakowski said.
The U.S. unemployment rate was 9.4 percent in July -- more than 3 percent higher than the year before and above 9 percent for the third straight month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Perhaps more telling were the numbers for long-term unemployment, which showed that 5 million Americans have been jobless for more than six months.
Merely not having a job does not add to chances for depression, she said. Only the unemployed actively looking for work experienced the anxiety that could eventually affect mental health.
Also, the relationship between being out of work and depression is stronger for men, according to Mossakowski.
"Because it is more common for women to be out of the labor force, it is plausible that it may be less stigmatizing and psychologically distressing for them compared with men," she said.
Being clinically depressed doesn't appear to be a barrier to getting a job or holding onto one.
"Other research has demonstrated that clinical depression does not lead to unemployment, and that elevated levels of depressive symptoms increased the probability of re-employment," Mossakowski said.
©2009 WOIO. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.