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Is Envy Harmful to a Society's Psychological Health and Wellbeing? A Longitudinal Study of 18,000 Adults

Redzo Mujcic () and Andrew Oswald
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Redzo Mujcic: University of Warwick

No 11922, IZA Discussion Papers from Institute of Labor Economics (IZA)

Abstract: Nearly 100 years ago, the philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell warned of the social dangers of widespread envy. One view of modern society is that it is systematically developing a set of institutions - such as social media and new forms of advertising - that make people feel inadequate and envious of others. If so, how might that be influencing the psychological health of our citizens? This paper reports the first large-scale longitudinal research into envy and its possible repercussions. The paper studies 18,000 randomly selected individuals over the years 2005, 2009, and 2013. Using measures of SF-36 mental health and psychological well-being, four main conclusions emerge. First, the young are especially susceptible. Levels of envy fall as people grow older. This longitudinal finding is consistent with a cross-sectional pattern noted recently by Nicole E. Henniger and Christine R. Harris, and with the theory of socioemotional regulation suggested by scholars such as Laura L. Carstensen. Second, using fixed-effects equations and prospective analysis, the analysis reveals that envy today is a powerful predictor of worse SF-36 mental health and well-being in the future. A change from the lowest to the highest level of envy, for example, is associated with a worsening of SF-36 mental health by approximately half a standard deviation (p

Keywords: envy; age; SF-36; mental health; well-being; life satisfaction; longitudinal data (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: I18 I31 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 34 pages
Date: 2018-10
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-hap, nep-hea, nep-ltv and nep-pke
References: View references in EconPapers View complete reference list from CitEc
Citations: View citations in EconPapers (7)

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Related works:
Journal Article: Is envy harmful to a society's psychological health and wellbeing? A longitudinal study of 18,000 adults (2018) Downloads
Working Paper: Is Envy Harmful to a Society’s Psychological Health and Wellbeing? A Longitudinal Study of 18,000 Adults (2018) Downloads
Working Paper: Is Envy Harmful to a Society’s Psychological Health and Wellbeing? A Longitudinal Study of 18,000 Adults (2018) Downloads
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