The economic recession which began in Sweden in 1991 was followed by a large increase in the unemployment rate, especially in the younger labour force. The main purpose of the present study was to examine whether this recession has resulted in an increase in psychological distress in the population. Self-reported symptoms of anxiety, anguish, depression and sleeplessness have been analysed in repeated cross-sectional surveys conducted every other year from 1989 to 1995 in the County of Ostergötland. The study was confined to the 20-39 years age group and includes 3122 male and 3440 female respondents. The analysis was restricted to symptoms reported as occurring often or constantly. There was a significant increase in the 12-month prevalence of psychological distress among both men and women. At the beginning of the period 5% of the men in the 20-29 years age group reported frequent symptoms of psychological distress. By 1995 this had increased to 10%. The largest increase in prevalence, however, was found in men in the 30-39 years age group and women in the 20-29 years group Interestingly, when the non-employed groups were excluded from the analysis, the increasing trends of reported distress remained statistically significant with the exception of women aged 30-39 years.