Income inequality and depression: The role of social comparisons and coping resources

I.A. van Deurzen, E.J. van Ingen, W.J.H. van Oorschot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
209 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

In the present contribution, we address the idea that income inequality can ‘get under the skin’ and worsen the symptoms of depression. We investigate whether this effect can be explained by country differences in the average coping resources citizens have at their disposal, as well as the average extent to which they engage in social comparisons. In addition, we examine whether coping resources can protect individuals from the detrimental effect of inequality and whether the effect of inequality varies according to socio-economic (SES) positions. We use multilevel techniques on a sample of 43,824 respondents collected by the European Social Survey (ESS) 2006/2007 in 23 European countries and find that individuals in countries with greater income inequalities report more depressive symptoms. Although social comparisons are associated with more depressive symptoms, they do not explain the effect of inequality and neither do coping resources. However, we do find that coping resources can protect against the stress of living in a society with high income inequality. Our results provide some support for the idea that inequality is most corrosive to the mental health of the people in the middle of the income hierarchy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)477-489
JournalEuropean Sociological Review
Volume31
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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