Mental Health

Kevin Lewis

April 10, 2022

Sales and Self: The Noneconomic Value of Selling the Fruits of One's Labor
Benedikt Schnurr et al.
Journal of Marketing, May 2022, Pages 40-58

A core assumption across many disciplines is that producers enter market exchange relationships for economic reasons. This research examines an overlooked factor; namely, the socioemotional benefits of selling the fruits of one's labor. Specifically, the authors find that individuals selling their products interpret sales as a signal from the market that serves as a source of self-validation, thus increasing their happiness above and beyond any monetary rewards from those sales. This effect highlights an information asymmetry that is opposite to what is found in traditional signaling theory. That is, the authors find that customers have information about product quality that they signal to the producer, validating the producer's skill level. Furthermore, the sales-as-signal effect is moderated by characteristics of the purchase transaction that determine the signal strength of sales: The effect is attenuated when product choice does not reflect a deliberate decision and is amplified when buyers incur higher monetary costs. In addition, sales have a stronger effect on happiness than alternative, nonmonetary forms of market signals such as likes. Finally, the sales-as-signal effect is more pronounced when individuals sell their self-made (vs. other-made) products and affects individuals’ happiness beyond the happiness gained from producing. 

The Female Happiness Paradox
David Blanchflower & Alex Bryson
NBER Working Paper, March 2022

Using data across countries and over time we show that women are unhappier than men in unhappiness and negative affect equations, irrespective of the measure used – anxiety, depression, fearfulness, sadness, loneliness, anger – and they have more days with bad mental health and more restless sleep. Women are also less satisfied with many aspects of their lives such as democracy, the economy, the state of education and health services. They are also less happy in the moment in terms of peace and calm, cheerfulness, feeling active, vigorous, fresh and rested. However, prior evidence on gender differences in global wellbeing metrics – happiness and life satisfaction – is less clear cut. Differences vary over time, location, and with model specification and the inclusion of controls especially marital status. We also show that there are significant variations by month in happiness data regarding whether males are happier than females but find little variation by month in unhappiness data. It matters which months are sampled when measuring positive affect but not with negative affect. These monthly data reveal that women’s happiness was more adversely affected by the COVID shock than men’s, but also that women’s happiness rebounded more quickly suggesting resilience. As a result, we now find strong evidence that males have higher levels of both happiness and life satisfaction in recent years even before the onset of pandemic. As in the past they continue to have lower levels of unhappiness. A detailed analysis of several data files, with various metrics, for the UK confirms that men now are happier than women. 

Depression and suicidality as evolved credible signals of need in social conflicts
Michael Gaffney et al.
Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming

Mental health professionals generally view major depression and suicidality as pathological responses to stress that elicit aversive responses from others. An alternative hypothesis grounded in evolutionary theory contends that depression and suicidality are honest signals of need in response to adversity that can increase support from reluctant others when there are conflicts of interest. To test this hypothesis, we examined responses to emotional signals in a preregistered experimental vignette study involving claims of substantial need in the presence of conflicts of interest and private information about the signaler's true level of need. In a sample of 1240 participants recruited from Amazon Mechanical Turk, costlier signals like depression and suicidality increased perceptions of need, reduced perceptions of manipulativeness, and increased likelihood of support compared to simple verbal requests and crying without further symptoms. The effect of signaling on likelihood of support was largely mediated by the effect of signaling on participants' belief that the signaler was genuinely in need. Our results support the hypothesis that depression and suicidality, apparent human universals, are credible signals of need that elicit more support than verbal requests, sad expressions, and crying when there are conflicts of interest. 

Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy. . . especially if I’m less intelligent: How sunlight and intelligence affect happiness in modern society
Satoshi Kanazawa, Norman Li & Jose Yong
Cognition and Emotion, forthcoming

The savanna theory of happiness proposes that, due to evolutionary constraints on the human brain, situations and circumstances that would have increased our ancestors’ happiness may still increase our happiness today, and those that would have decreased their happiness then may still decrease ours today. It further proposes that, because general intelligence evolved to solve evolutionarily novel problems, this tendency may be stronger among less intelligent individuals. Because humans are a diurnal species that cannot see in the dark, darkness always represented danger to our ancestors and may still decrease our happiness today. Consistent with this prediction, the analysis of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) data shows that exposure to sunlight was associated with happiness but the association was significantly weaker among more intelligent individuals. 

Effects of an immersive psychosocial training program on depression and well-being: A randomized clinical trial
Ariel Ganz et al.
Journal of Psychiatric Research, forthcoming

Psychiatry stands to benefit from brief non-pharmacological treatments that effectively reduce depressive symptoms. To address this need, we conducted a single-blind randomized clinical trial assessing how a 6-day immersive psychosocial training program, followed by 10-minute daily psychosocial exercises for 30 days, improves depressive symptoms. Forty-five adults were block-randomized by depression score to two arms: (a) the immersive psychosocial training program and 10-minute daily exercise group (36 days total; total n = 23; depressed at baseline n = 14); or (b) a gratitude journaling control group (36 days total; total n = 22; depressed at baseline n = 13). The self-report PHQ-9 was used to assess depression levels in both groups at three time points: baseline, study week one, and study week six. Depression severity improved over time, with a significantly greater reduction in the psychosocial training program group (−82.7%) vs. the control group (−23%), p = 0.02 for baseline vs. week six. The effect size for this reduction in depression symptoms was large for the intervention group (d = −1.3; 95% CI, −2.07, −0.45; p < 0.001) and small for the control group (d = −0.3; 95% CI, −0.68, 0.03; p = 0.22). Seventy-nine percent (11/14) of depressed participants in the intervention condition were in remission (PHQ-9 ≤ 4) by week one and 100% (14/14) were in remission at week six. Secondary measures of anxiety, stress, loneliness, and well-being also improved by 15–80% in the intervention group (vs. 0–34% in the control group), ps < 0.05). Overall, this brief, immersive psychosocial training program rapidly and substantially improved depression levels and several related secondary outcomes, suggesting that immersive interventions may be useful for reducing depressive symptoms and enhancing well-being. 

Association of Subjective Social Status with Epigenetic Aging among Black and White Women
Elissa Hamlat et al.
Psychoneuroendocrinology, forthcoming

For 9- and 10-year-old Black and White girls, parental education and annual household income was obtained. At ages 39 - 42, 361 participants (175 Black, 186 White) reported their current education, household income, and SSS, and provided saliva to assess age acceleration using the GrimAge epigenetic clock. Linear regression estimated the association of SSS with epigenetic age acceleration, controlling for objective SES (current education, current income, parents’ education, income during childhood), smoking, and counts of cell types.

When all objective SES variables were included in the model, SSS remained significantly associated with epigenetic age acceleration, b = -0.31, p =.003, ß = -.15. Black women had significantly greater age acceleration than White women, (t(359) = 5.20, p >.001, d = 0.55) but race did not moderate the association between SSS and epigenetic age acceleration.


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