Abstract: Subjective Socioeconomic Status and Mental Health Among Young Adults: The Mediating Role of Social Participation and ICT Usage (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

324P Subjective Socioeconomic Status and Mental Health Among Young Adults: The Mediating Role of Social Participation and ICT Usage

Friday, January 17, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 6 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Netta Netta Achdut Netta Achdut, PhD, Academic Faculty, Ben-Gurion University, Israel
Tehila Refaeli, PhD, Lecturer and Head, Youth Studies, Ben Gurion University, Tel Aviv, Israel
Background and Purpose: Socioeconomic status (SES) is considered a central determinant of mental health. Socioeconomic inequalities in mental health may arise via several pathways, one of which is social participation. Recent work has additionally demonstrated the importance of subjective socioeconomic status (SSS) to mental health. However, most of our knowledge of the SSS-mental health gradient and its underlying mechanisms comes from studies on mid-life and older adults. Studies on SSS-social participation-mental health associations among young adults (18-29), an age group facing a challenging period of transition from adolescence to adulthood, are very rare. Following the definition offered by the World Health Organization (WHO) (2014) for mental health, this study employed a social inequalities approach to health by examining (1) the association between SSS, social participation and mental health among young adults; (2) whether social participation mediates the association between SSS and mental health; (3) whether different forms of social participation have different mediating effects on this association.

Methods: Cross-sectional data for individuals aged 20-29 were taken from the Israeli Social Survey for the year 2017 (N=1,508). SSS is measured by subjective-poverty and material deprivation indices. Social participation is measured by connection with family and friends; self-perceived-support; self-perceived trust; volunteering; civic and political involvement; and the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), i.e., online social networks. Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) was employed to explore paths of relations between SSS, social participation and mental health. We further used the RMediation package to test the significance of each mediation effect based on the full model.

Results: Multiple model fit indicators were assessed and demonstrated a very good model fit to the data (χ2(30)=72.98, p<0.05, χ2/df=2.43, RMSEA=.031, CFI=.964, TLI=.921, NFI=.942). The model explained 24% of the variance in mental health. Subjective poverty (standardized regression weights β=-.20 and β=-.15) and material deprivation indices (β=-.10) negatively correlated with mental health. Three mediators appeared in the model that link SSS to mental health: informal social participation – a factor including relations with family and friends and self-perceived-support; self-perceived trust; and ICT usage. Informal social participation (β=.20) and self-perceived trust (β=.08) positively correlated with mental health, whereas higher use of online social networks decreased mental health (β=-.16). Similar results applied regarding material deprivation indices. Volunteering and civic or political involvement had no direct or indirect effect on mental health among young adults.

Conclusions and Implications: Several forms of social participation were found to mitigate the negative effect of low SSS on mental health. Thus, interventions aimed at promoting certain aspects of social participation and self-perceived trust, while regulating and moderating the use of online social networks, are recommended as a way for health and social services to reduce inequality and enhance mental health among young adults. This might also prevent further escalation of mental health problems in later years. However, in order to substantially narrow health disparities, direct actions should be taken to reduce poverty and social and economic marginalization.