Struggling to keep up with the Joneses
posted on: Jul 25, 2012
There is evidence to suggest that poor health is more common in societies with greater income inequality. However, the relationship between income inequality and poor health is more firmly established at higher spatial scales (e.g. national-level studies) than lower ones, while UK subnational studies are few in number.
A recently published study has looked into the issue of mental well-being and local-level social comparisons. It has found some evidence of associations between poorer mental well-being and people’s perception that they are doing less well in life than their neighbours.
Using a large-scale survey of residents of deprived communities (Glasgow, UK), and examining perceptions of relative position in income and residential terms at the local scale, this study found mental well-being was positively associated with:
o Perceived relative quality of the home (locally) and perceived relative desirability of the home (more widely).
o Perceived internal reputation of the neighbourhood, although there was no relation with perceived external area reputation.
o Perceived relative standard of living (more widely).
The authors conclude that local spatial scale may be more important to issues of relative deprivation than previously thought, as people make local as well as broader comparisons. Furthermore, the ability to make upward comparisons of income within deprived areas may be beneficial to residents rather than detrimental, possibly as an indicator of area progress and ‘normality’.