Is Shared Misery Double Misery?
The literature has shown strong associations between health, financial and social life events and mental health. However, no studies as yet have looked at the temporal nature of the effects of life events on stated mental health nor have they included the effects of the events befalling partners within a household. This paper looks at the spillover in mental health, measured with the SF-36 scale, from one partner to the other, using life events to identify this relationship. We propose a new model that allows for both a temporal spacing of effects (anticipation and adaptation) as well as a spillover factor, which we define as the degree to which the events that are experienced by the partner affect us in the same way as if these events were to happen to us. We use data from 51,380 person-year observations of the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey (2002-10) which consistently measures nine distinct events, including illnesses, social shocks and financial shocks. We find that the events befalling a partner on average have an effect about 15% as large as the effect of own events. We use the estimates to compute the compensation required to offset own and partner's life events. The methodology in this paper is potentially useful for estimating other spillover parameters such as the effects of others in the family or in the neighbourhood.
Social Science & Medicine
Medical and Health Sciences not elsewhere classified