Project in detail

Social Determinants of Mental Illnesses

Members of this project:



Recent decades have witnessed a considerable increase in the diagnoses of mental illnesses. The most frequently diagnosed conditions include depression in the elderly and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. This project looks into social causes underlying these illnesses. The previous literature has, for example, brought to light correlations between human environmental conditions and mental health. To date, however, the causal mechanisms behind such correlations often remain less well-understood. We in our projects therefore focus on the elaboration of causal agents in seeking to explain psychological disorders. One subproject deals with the correlation between fertility and the probability of developing depression in old age, thereby drawing upon SHARE data for the analysis. The key novelty here is the use of instrumental variables to determine the number of children, making it possible to identify causal effects. Initial results indicate that large numbers of children had do not correlate with a lower probability of depression in advanced age. Under certain circumstances, additional children even heighten the risk of mental illness. A second subproject poses the question whether changes in familial surroundings increase the likelihood that children will develop ADHD symptoms. The data for this investigation stem from the U.S. National Longitudinal Survey of the Youth. With the help of econometric procedures, it is possible to distinguish between time-constant effects (e.g. genetic disposition) and time-based variables. Initial findings show that the events surveyed (father leaving the household and birth of a sibling) significantly raise ADHD probability.

Publications arisen from this project:
  • Kruk, Eberhard; Reinhold, Steffen (2014): The Effect of Children on Depression in Old Age, Social Science & Medicine, 100, 1-11

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SHARE User Conference 2019 in Budapest, Hungary

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SHARE Book Release in Brussels - June 25, 2019

First results of SHARE Wave 6 and 7 - Health and socio-economic status over the life course

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