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Depression, Risk Preferences and Risk-Taking Behavior

Author

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  • Cobb-Clark, Deborah A.

    () (University of Sydney)

  • Dahmann, Sarah C.

    () (University of Melbourne)

  • Kettlewell, Nathan

    () (University of Technology, Sydney)

Abstract

Depression affects the way that people process information and make decisions, including those involving risk and uncertainty. Our objective is to analyze the way that depressive episodes shape risk preferences and risk-taking behaviors. We are the first to address this issue using large-scale, representative panel data that include both behavioral and stated risk preference measures and a theoretical framework that accounts for the multiple pathways through which depression affects risk-taking. We find no disparity in the behavioral risk preferences of the mentally well vs. depressed; yet depression is related to people's stated risk preferences and risk-taking behaviors in ways that are context-specific. Those who are likely to be experiencing a depressive episode report less willingness to take risks in general, but more willingness to take health risks, for example. We investigate these patterns by developing a conceptual model – informed by the psychological literature – that links depression to risk-taking behavior through the key elements of a standard intertemporal choice problem (e.g., time preferences, expectations, budget constraints). This motivates a mediation analysis in which we show that differences in risk-taking behavior are largely explained by depression-related disparities in behavioral traits such as locus of control, optimism and trust. Overall, we find that there is no overarching tendency for those who are depressive to engage in either more or less risk-taking. Instead, the decision-making context matters in ways that largely align with our theoretical expectations.

Suggested Citation

  • Cobb-Clark, Deborah A. & Dahmann, Sarah C. & Kettlewell, Nathan, 2019. "Depression, Risk Preferences and Risk-Taking Behavior," IZA Discussion Papers 12285, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp12285
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Yaari, Menahem E, 1987. "The Dual Theory of Choice under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(1), pages 95-115, January.
    2. Tversky, Amos & Kahneman, Daniel, 1992. "Advances in Prospect Theory: Cumulative Representation of Uncertainty," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 5(4), pages 297-323, October.
    3. Quiggin, John, 1982. "A theory of anticipated utility," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 323-343, December.
    4. Matthias Nübling & Hanfried H. Andersen & Axel Mühlbacher & Jürgen Schupp & Gert G. Wagner, 2007. "Computation of Standard Values for Physical and Mental Health Scale Scores Using the SOEP Version of SF12v2," Schmollers Jahrbuch : Journal of Applied Social Science Studies / Zeitschrift für Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaften, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin, vol. 127(1), pages 171-182.
    5. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-291, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Matthew W. Ridley & Gautam Rao & Frank Schilbach & Vikram H. Patel, 2020. "Poverty, Depression, and Anxiety: Causal Evidence and Mechanisms," NBER Working Papers 27157, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    risk preferences; depression; mental health; risk-taking;

    JEL classification:

    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance

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