Unemployment threatens the economic welfare of the family. It can affect self-respect and social status and remove the supportive network of the workplace. This cross-sectional survey from 1993-94 in a Norwegian community with 8,500 inhabitants describes emotional reactions to loss of job and the effects of unemployment on the lives of 148 long-term unemployed in Lillesand. A large majority were not mentally prepared for losing their job. Most reacted with defensive feelings, and a quarter experienced negative reactions from their social circle to their losing their job. Even if new extra leisure time was used for more social contact with friends and family, and more exercise and outdoor activity, satisfaction with life was reduced by being out of work. Women and the older unemployed seemed to adapt better to the new situation. The coping mechanisms of young men seemed much more limited.