The life period of young adulthood (emerging adulthood) is not only the period of transition from adolescence to adulthood but also, the period of transition from education to employment, which is characterized by high instability  and several major life changes such as leaving the parental home, starting a partner relationship, and finding a stable employment[2, 3].
Depressive disorders, as the most common mental problems and leading cause of disability, are related to reduced quality of life and increased risk for physical health problems. In 2015, the Global Burden of Diseases study (GBD) estimated that seven of the top 25 causes of Years Lived with Disability (YLD) globally were mental disorders, with major depressive disorder ranked second. Depression among young adults, the period of transition from adolescence to adulthood, influences long-term consequences through recurrent depressive episodes and worse socioeconomic outcomes even though it has substantial consequences throughout the lifespan.
Employment is a source of financial security, provides people the opportunity to fulfill a social and family role, which is much more important for physical and mental health. However, unemployment is a major social problem that determines loss of income, increases the risk of poverty and affect overall health[12, 13]. In addition, unemployment is regarded as a change in social position, particularly a change in family role, and is usually perceived as a very stressful life event [14–16]. In their systematic literature review and meta-analytic study, Paul and Moser reported that unemployed person does not have an access to the five latent functions of employment like structured time, social contact, collective purpose, social status and activity. The Authors indicate that the absence of these factors causes depression.
Unemployment is measured using the following three criteria: (1) without work (2) available for work and (3) seeking work . However, this definition varies in the context of developed and developing countries. In the developed countries where the labour market is largely organized and labour absorption is adequate, unemployment is measured based on the standard definition of the seeking work criteria that is having taken active steps to search for work during specified reference period (i.e. during last one week).
On the other hand, in developing countries like Ethiopia, where there is no strong labour market information, labour absorption is inadequate and where the labour force is predominantly self-employed, the standard definition with its emphasis on seeking work criteria is somewhat restrictive and might not fully capture the prevailing employment situation. The relaxed definition which measures unemployment in relation to” without work” and “availability for work” criterion is found to be more plausible in most developing countries.
The number and rate of unemployed people, in both developed and developing countries, is currently increasing than ever before. According to International Labour Organization(ILO) report, the number of unemployed people was 192.3 million in 2018 and 193.6 million in 2019. In Africa, based on this report, the number of unemployed people was 37.9 million in 2018 and 40.1 million in 2019.
In Ethiopia, according to Ethiopian Central Statistical Agency (CSA), the rate of unemployed people was 16.9% in 2016 and 19.1% in 2018. The rate of unemployment among young people in Ethiopia was 22% in 2016 and 25.3% in 2018 , indicating that young people are more affected by unemployment than adults.
Unemployment has been shown to have wide range effects on mental health from which depression is the most common mental health problems particularly among young people.
The estimated prevalence of depression among unemployed young adults varies across the studies due to different methods, tools and sample size. A systematic literature review and meta-analysis study (237 cross-sectional studies and 87 longitudinal studies) found prevalence of depression among unemployed individuals with range from 13–14%.
Based on the cross-sectional study conducted among 426 unemployed people in United State of America by using the Center for Epidemiological Study Depression Scale (CES-D), the reported prevalence of depression was 29%. According to recent cross-sectional study from Greece conducted among 1064 unemployed young adults by using Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS-21), the reported prevalence of depression was 32.2%. Another cross-sectional study conducted in Spain among 244 unemployed young adults by using Zung’s self-rating depression scale (SDS) showed the prevalence of depression with its severity: 41.8% slight depression, 42.2% moderate depression and 9.3% severe depression. Similar study done in Korea among 124 unemployed young adults by using Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II) found prevalence of depression 39.5%. Another cross-sectional study done in Bangladesh among 304 unemployed young adults by using Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS-21) showed prevalence of depression 49.3%.
Several studies have revealed that sex[26, 27], long duration of unemployment[28, 29], low self-esteem[30, 31], poor social support[32–34] and substance use[35, 36] were associated with depression among unemployed young people.
Unemployment among young people has been described as having serious consequences for future lives of young adults and for society at large. Previous studies have suggested that unemployed young people are more likely to have poor physical health[37, 38], engage more frequently in criminal behaviors, increased risk of smoking, increased risk of alcohol consumption and substance abuse[39, 41]. Moreover, unemployment among young people has been associated with higher mortality rates due to suicide[39, 42] and alcohol-related mortality. Furthermore, unemployment among young adults results substantial crises in psychological, social and economic perspectives, some of them are: increasing crime rates and violence, dependence on family, low self esteem, poor social adaptation, depression and loss of confidence.
Despite the increasing rate of unemployment, in turn, which increase the risk of mental health problems (i.e. depression) among unemployed young adults, there is less attention given for this major public health issue in African countries, particularly in Ethiopia. To the best of our knowledge no study has been conducted to assess prevalence and determinant factors of depression among unemployed young adults in Ethiopia as well as in the study area. Therefore, the present study will assess prevalence and determinant factors of depression among unemployed young adults in Gedeo zone, Southern Ethiopia. The findings of this study will help health programmers and policy makers at large to design preventive strategies and intervention programs of mental health problems for unemployed young people.