Hopelessness, defined by emotional despair and motivational helplessness (Abramson, L. Y., Seligman, M. E., & Teasdale, J. D., 1978), has multiple impacts including: weapon carrying at school, partner violence, anxiety, depression, self-directed violence, addiction, and more. Below are the common themes in hopelessness research, including (1) adverse health outcomes, (2) risky behaviors, (3) economic despair, and (4) poor work and school performance:
Hopelessness Leads to Adverse Health Outcomes
- Hopelessness is the Single Consistent Predictor of Suicide
- Suicide is a significant problem among youth; the suicide rates for young girls between the ages of 10-14 are increasing faster than for young boys (Jama, 2019).
- Suicide is the leading cause of death for teen girls (World Health Organization, 2008).
- 1 out of 9 students self-report suicide attempts before graduating high school, with 40% of them in grade school (Journal of Adolescent Health, 2011)
- Hopelessness is the leading predictor of suicide and is more closely associated with suicide than depression (Association of Physicians, 2004; APA, 2013; PLoS One, 2015; Psychosomatic Medicine, 2001; Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 2005).
- Hopelessness is predictive of both loneliness and suicidality, and there is no relation between loneliness and suicidality beyond hopelessness (Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 1996).
- The Biden-Harris Administration Reported that 44.2% of Americans experienced persistent hopelessness.
- Of those who struggle with hopelessness, 19.9% considered suicide, and 9.9% attempted suicide.
- The prevalence of hopelessness has dramatically increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Hopelessness is a Primary Symptom of Major Depressive Disorder
- 36% of adolescent girls in the United States reported experiencing depression before graduating high school, which is rising (Pew Research Center, 2019.)
- Hopelessness often leads to low mood and negatively impacts one’s ability to perceive oneself, other people, and surroundings. (Journal of Neurology and Neuroscience, 2019)
- Hopelessness is a Byproduct of Depression and Anxiety
- Hopelessness is a common feature of depression and anxiety, and one of the reasons for the co-occurrence of these disorders is hopelessness (Comorbidity of Mood and Anxiety Disorders, 1990).
- Hopelessness Predicts Adverse Health Outcomes
- Individuals with increased hopelessness have a greater risk of premature death, cancer, and heart disease (Psychosomatic Medicine, 1996).
- Employees with higher levels of hopelessness have reduced job satisfaction, greater burnout, and subsequent higher absenteeism (International Journal of Academic Research, 2014).
- Hopelessness is related to feelings of Loneliness
- Hopeless people often experience increased feelings of loneliness (Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 1996).
Hopelessness Leads to Risky Behaviors
- In Adolescents, Hopelessness Leads to Risky Behaviors (i.e., Delinquency, Weapon Carrying, and Violence).
- When their future is uncertain, adolescents’ hopelessness rise. Hopelessness is related to adolescent delinquent behavior, weapon carrying on school property, accidental injury, substance use, risky sexual behaviors, and violence (Maternal Child Health, 2011)
- Adolescents most at risk for risk behavior and hopelessness are those who live in high-poverty inner-city neighborhoods (Journal of Adolescence, 2003):
- Of 2468 inner-city adolescents surveyed, nearly 50% of males and 25% of females had moderate or severe feelings of hopelessness.
Populations More At-Risk of Hopelessness
- Minorities are at a Greater Risk of Experiencing Hopelessness
- 63% of lesbian, gay, or bisexual students reported feeling hopeless (CDC, 2018).
- 46.4% of students questioning their sexual identity reported feeling hopeless CDC, 2018.
- Hopelessness was a common risk factor among Indian youth who died by suicide (American Indian Culture and Research Journal, 1999).
- Adverse Child Experiences are Related to Higher Hopelessness
Hopelessness Impacts the Economy
- Hopelessness Places a Financial Burden on the Economy
- Individuals high on hopelessness are often more financial literature (i.e., cannot make informed decisions about financial resources), leading to an economic burden (European Scientific Journal, 2013).
- Completed and attempted suicides cost the United States nearly $70 billion per year in medical and work-loss costs (CDC, 2019).
- Individuals living with Food Insecurity or Poverty are at Risk of Hopelessness
- One-third of low-income adults facing food insecurity also experience depression, anxiety, and high-stress symptoms. Hopelessness is a common symptom across all of those concerns (Healthy Equity, 2021).
Hopelessness Impacts Work/School Performance
- Hopelessness Can Lead to School Dropout
- Research has found that people who drop out of school have the common element of hopelessness (Journal of Education and Work, 2006).
- Hopelessness Results in Increased Absences From Work and School
- Adolescents who experience hopelessness are more likely to display chronic absenteeism (Frontiers in Psychology, 2020).
The good news? Hopeful Minds has found that Hope is teachable. Furthermore, higher Hope corresponds to greater emotional and psychological well-being, greater academic performance, and enhanced personal relationships (Snyder, 2003).