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The Role of Income, Life-Style Deprivation and Financial Strain in Mediating the Impact of Unemployment on Psychological Distress. Published in Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, Vol 65 Part 4


  • Christopher T. Whelan

    (Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI))


Reactions to unemployment are the outcome of complex interactions between the psychological condition of the individual and the economic circumstances of the household. Despite the increasing volume of research on the relationship between unemployment and mental health, consideration of the relationship between economic and psychological problems remains remarkably rare. The available evidence suggests that income has no direct effect but has its effect primarily through its relationship to financial strain. In the absence of a systematic analysis of the relationship between income, life-style deprivation, financial strain and psychological distress, our ability to attribute causal significance to the impact of financial strain must remain extremely limited. Such an analysis requires that we have available to us household measures of income and resources which we can employ as predictors of financial strain and psychological distress. The analysis reported in this paper is based on a national sample of 3294 households in the Republic of Ireland conducted in 1987 which contains such information. In conducting this analysis we draw on psychological and sociological perspectives in order to move beyond a life-event approach to unemployment and demonstrate the impact on emotional well-being of change that leads to hardship in basic enduring economic circumstances. In particular our analysis demonstrates, more clearly than previous work, the crucial role of life-style deprivation of very basic kind, involving the enforced absence of socially defined necessities. Such objective exclusion from customary life-styles is associated with the constant need to engage in " economic brinkmanship". When economic pressures exceed the coping capacity of the person, increased levels of psychological distress ensue.

Suggested Citation

  • Christopher T. Whelan, 1991. "The Role of Income, Life-Style Deprivation and Financial Strain in Mediating the Impact of Unemployment on Psychological Distress. Published in Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, V," Papers WP020, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
  • Handle: RePEc:esr:wpaper:wp020

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Bengt Muthén, 1978. "Contributions to factor analysis of dichotomous variables," Psychometrika, Springer;The Psychometric Society, vol. 43(4), pages 551-560, December.
    2. Whelan, Christopher T. & Hannan, Damian F. & Creighton, Sean, 1991. "Unemployment, Poverty and Psychological Distress," Research Series, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), number GRS150.
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    Cited by:

    1. Oswald, Andrew J, 1997. "Happiness and Economic Performance," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(445), pages 1815-1831, November.

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