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Unemployment and mental health in the German population: the role of subjective social status

Authors Neubert M, Süssenbach P, Rief W, Euteneuer F

Received 8 March 2019

Accepted for publication 4 June 2019

Published 24 July 2019 Volume 2019:12 Pages 557—564


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Einar Thorsteinsson

Marie Neubert,1 Philipp Süssenbach,2 Winfried Rief,1 Frank Euteneuer1,3

1Division of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Philipps University, Marburg, Germany; 2Division of Social and Personality Psychology, Fachhochschule des Mittelstands (FHM), University of Applied Sciences, Bielefeld, Germany; 3Division of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Medical School Berlin, Berlin, Germany

Purpose: Subjective social status (SSS) reflects individuals’ perceived position in a social hierarchy. Low SSS is associated with several mental health impairments. The aim of this cross-sectional study was to examine if unemployed individuals report lower SSS in Germany (national SSS) and lower SSS in their social community (local SSS) than employed individuals. Moreover, the relationship between unemployment, SSS, and mental health was examined.
Patients and methods: 113 unemployed and 1117 employed individuals from a representative German panel provided information on their national and local SSS, their monthly income and their mental health. SSS was assessed with the German version of the MacArthur Scales. Mental health was measured using the mental component scale (MCS) of the SF-12.
Results: Unemployed individuals reported significantly lower national SSS, local SSS and mental health compared to employed participants. Mediational analyses suggest that the negative effect of employment status on mental health was explained via a reduction of national SSS. Local SSS did not mediate the association of employment status and mental health.
Conclusion: Unemployment is associated with lower SSS and reduced mental health. The perceived position relative to others in the country (ie, national SSS) mediates the association between employment status and mental health.

Keywords: unemployed, perceived social position, SF-12, income, Socio-Economic Panel

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