Short-term changes in financial situation have immediate psychological consequences: The Changing Cost of Living Study

Daniel Nettle, Coralie Chevalier, Benoit de Courson, Elliott Johnson, Matthew T Johnson, Kate E. Pickett

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Poverty is associated with psychological variables such as increased anxiety, increased depression, steeper time discounting and greater risk aversion. However, less is known about whether short-term changes in financial circumstances are coupled to immediate psychological responses. We present data from the Changing Cost of Living study, in which panels of adults in France (n = 232) and the UK (n = 240) completed financial and psychological surveys every month for a year (September 2022-August 2023). We found the expected overall socioeconomic gradients in anxiety, depression and time discounting. In addition, monthly fluctuations in financial situation were associated with fluctuations in depression, anxiety and risk preference. Increases in essential costs, considered separately from fluctuations in income, had an immediate impact on depression. Social support, the instrumental and emotional assistance derivable from one’s social network, buffered the effects of short-term financial fluctuations on depression and time discounting, but did not mitigate the overall gradients. We conclude that declines in income or increases in the cost of living have immediate and measurable psychological impacts, which must be borne in mind in the formulation and evaluation of social policy.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Policy & Administration
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 3 Jul 2024

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