The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00127-016-1223-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Common mental disorders are an increasing global public health concern. The least advantaged in society experience a greater burden of mental illness, but inequalities in mental health vary by social, political, and economic contexts. This study investigates whether spending on different types of social protection alters the extent of social inequality in depressive symptoms.
Data were obtained from the 2006 and 2012 cross-sectional waves of the European Social Survey, which included 48,397 individuals from 18 European countries. Depressive symptoms were measured using the Centre for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression Scale (CES-D 8). Statistical interactions between country-level social protection spending and individuals’ education level, employment and family status were explored using multilevel regression models.
Higher spending on active labour market programmes was related to narrower inequality in depressive symptoms by education level. Compared to men with high education, the marginal effect of having low education was 1.67 (95 % CI, 1.46–1.87) among men in countries with lower spending and 0.85 (95 % CI, 0.66–1.03) in higher spending countries. Single parents exhibited fewer depressive symptoms, as spending on family policies increased. Little evidence was found for an overall association between spending on unemployment benefits and employment-related inequalities in depressive symptoms, but in 2012, unemployment spending appeared beneficial to mental health among the unemployed.
Greater investment in social protection may act to reduce inequalities in depressive symptoms. Reductions in spending levels or increased conditionality may adversely affect the mental health of disadvantaged social groups.
Table S1: Types of social protection spending and related hypotheses. Table S2: Frequencies of key variables and extent of missing data. Table S3: Summary of country-level variables. Table S4: Linear multilevel models predicting depressive symptoms (CES-D 8) according to employment status and unemployment spending among men and women from 18 European countries. Table S5: Linear multilevel models predicting depressive symptoms (CES-D 8) according to education level and ALMP spending among men and women from 18 European countries. Table S6: Linear multilevel models predicting depressive symptoms (CES-D 8) according to education level and ALMP spending among men and women from 18 European countries, controlling for employment status. Table S7: Linear multilevel models predicting depressive symptoms (CES-D 8) according to family status and family spending among men and women from 18 European countries127_2016_1223_MOESM1_ESM.docx
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- Social protection spending and inequalities in depressive symptoms across Europe
Claire L. Niedzwiedz
Richard J. Mitchell
Niamh K. Shortt
Jamie R. Pearce
- Springer Berlin Heidelberg
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