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An evolutionary based social rank explanation of why low income predicts mental distress: A 17 year cohort study of 30,000 people

Wood, A. M., Boyce, C. J., Moore, Simon Christopher ORCID: and Brown, G. D. A. 2012. An evolutionary based social rank explanation of why low income predicts mental distress: A 17 year cohort study of 30,000 people. Journal of Affective Disorders 136 (3) , pp. 882-888. 10.1016/j.jad.2011.09.014

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Background This paper presents a new psychological model of why lowincome increases risk of mentaldistress. Consistent with evolutionary perspectives on disorder, income was predicted to relate to mentaldistress only through acting as an indirect proxy for socialrank. Methods Participants were part of a longitudinal cohort sample of 30,000 people who were representative of the British population and who completed measures annually for up to 17 years. Mentaldistress was assessed via the General Health Questionnaire which measures anxiety, depression, and general functioning. Results Both income and the rank of the income within the region (and the rank of income within other comparison groups, such as similar individuals) predicted current and future distress. However, when distress was jointly regressed on income and incomerank, only incomerank remained a significant predictor. Limitations The outcome measure was self-report (although the predictor was objective). Conclusions The results support psychosocial rather than material explanations of why income relates to distress, and suggest that a concern for socialrank is the mechanism through which these effects occur. This mechanism is consistent with an evolutionarily based “involuntary defeat syndrome” where hard wired responses to lowsocialrank increase risk for disorder and the Decision by Sampling model of how people make relative judgments. Negative cognitions associated with lowsocialrank (particularly defeat and entrapment) may be clinically targetable in both prevention and treatment programs to reduce socio-economic mental health disparities.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Dentistry
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
Uncontrolled Keywords: Relative income; Mental health; Social status; Inequality; Easterlin paradox; Relative rank
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0165-0327
Last Modified: 08 Jan 2024 07:19

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