Chelsea Schneider

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					Chelsea Schneider

Research Question As I am very interested in the mental health of our society, I chose to look at mental health in terms of employment. I will be using Agnew's Strain Theory as a starting point in forming my hypothesis. My question asks: Are people who are unemployed more likely to experience problematic mental health? Going further, are these negative effects more likely to occur for males or females? I will define my variables as it is a necessary part of my research. By problematic mental health I mean has the person a person is who is not opposed to a person committing suicide if they feel they no longer want to live. By unemployment I mean if a person has been unemployed at some point during the past 5 years. Persons who are unemployed will have less interaction with others and be filled with more negative emotions. Unemployment will be my independent variable. Occurrence of a problematic mental health issue will be dependent variable. Specifically, if the respondent favors suicide if the person no longer feels they want to live. I focus on gender as my interaction variable. I would like to see if unemployment affects the mental health of males more than females or vice versa. Perhaps the effect will vary because one group may be more social than the other which would certainly have an effect on mental health. A person who has more interaction with society will have greater positive emotions, which should lessen the likelihood of a nervous breakdown. My control variable is region. It is very important to control where person lives because region could affect both unemployment and mental health. Perhaps in some areas weather and poor infrastructure may increase unemployment and increase problems with mental health. A person who lives in a place that is generally warm and sunny, and rich in resources, may experience better mental health simply because of where they live. Statement of Purpose: I think that the association between unemployment and mental health is very important for several reasons. Knowledge of the effect of unemployment on a person's mental health could help greatly in treatment efforts for the person. If a doctor is able to somewhat pinpoint the cause of the problem, it can be more easily fixed. If I find that mental health problems are directly affected by a person's employment status, then we can assume that some part of mental health problem is environmental. Persons who are unemployed are more likely to feel negative emotions because they are not able to meet their needs or the needs of their families. If they are not able to bring money into the household, they are certainly experiencing more strain than an employed person. Thus, the strain they are feeling may impact their feelings toward suicide, which is the factor I am using to determine mental health. Relevant Sociological Theory:

This question is guided by Agnew's General Strain Theory. One of his greatest contributions to the field of sociology was the formulation of this theory. He found that strain had a great impact on criminal activity. I will be using this theory, sort of out of the box, as I will be using it to explain negative mental health instead of crime. In his theory, his main assumption is that strain is a social psychological process that leads to negative emotions. This strain can be caused by several reasons; most important to my research is the lack of positive stimuli given by interaction with others. Interaction with others creates, like in the workforce, positive emotions that keep strain at bay. By becoming unemployed or temporarily unemployed, the positive stimuli is removed. By removing the positive stimuli, the positive emotions that come along with it are also removed. This creates negative emotions that increase the strain any given person experiences. From this strain, I have hypothesized, a person is more likely to have negative mental health. One of the key aspects of this theory are the few things that he claims cause strain; the removal of stimuli, the introduction of negative stimuli and the inability to achieve positive personal goals. I will be using the third cause, the inability to achieve personal goals, as the cause of negative emotions. Society values the ability to keep a job and to provide for your family. Society especially values the role of males as the breadwinner of the family, making his unemployment especially distressing. By being unemployed, a person is currently unable to complete this goal which can be very distressing. I will further this claim by exhibiting the importance of work in our society. Work is the basis of our lives. We spend more of our time working and the income we make from this work is that keeps our lives and our families thriving. When a person is unable to take part in such a fundamental part of our expected lives, it can cause a great amount of strain for such a person. With my research question, I would like to know if the strain from the lack of unemployment is a trigger for problematic mental health. A central proposition of Agnew's theory is that negative emotions will lead to strain. This strain will then cause problems for such a person, especially participation in crime. Given this proposition and my research question, null hypothesis one is: unemployment will not negatively affect a person's mental health. Alternate hypothesis one is: unemployment will affect negatively a person's mental health. If Agnew's theory can be applied to my research question, then I will be able to reject my null hypothesis one. The interaction hypothesis involves the conditioning effects of gender. Considering societal views of gender and work, the predicted effect should be stronger for males than females because men are expected to work more than women are. Therefore, null hypothesis two is: strain will not negatively affect the mental health of men more than women. Alternate hypothesis two is: strain will negatively affect the mental health of men more than women.

In the following section, I will describe a research design that will allow me to test my research questions: First, will unemployment negatively affect a person's mental health? Second, will unemployment negatively affect a man's mental health more than a woman's mental health? More specifically, I will address the operationalization of key concepts,

the sampling strategy to be used and my technique of data collection. In addition, I will describe my design of proof and more any limitations of the research design. Operationalization The key concepts of my research question are unemployment, mental health and gender. Unemployment refers to a person who has been unemployed sometime within the last 5 years. This classification will be scored 1 while all other classification will be scored 0. Problematic mental health refers to a person who has favorable ideas toward suicide. I will use personal data from the GSS, specifically persons who have felt they have had problems with mental health. Persons who answered "yes" to being in favor of suicide will be scored 1 and those who have not will be scored 0. To measure gender, I will include the variable sex, which is scored 1 for males and 2 for females. Measures from these operationalization strategies have high validity. In other words, they subjectively measure the concepts of interest.

Sampling I will study the data collected within the GSS to make generalization about the past decade. Regarding the sampling of years, I will study the year 2003. Each survey from 1972 to 2004 was an independently drawn sample of English-speaking persons 18 years of age or over, living in non-institutional arrangements within the United States. Starting in 2006 Spanish-speakers were added to the target population. Block quota sampling was used in 1972, 1973, and 1974 surveys and for half of the 1975 and 1976 surveys. Full probability sampling was employed in half of the 1975 and 1976 surveys and the 1977, 1978, 1980, 1982-1991, 1993-1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2006 surveys. Also, the 2004 and 2006 surveys had sub-sampled non-respondents. This is a convenience sampling strategy, as the number of persons who completed the survey will be greater than in previous times. More generally, the benefit of using convenience sampling is the ability to maintain low cost and little time consumed. Data Collection Technique I will be using Data collected by the General Social Surveys (GSS). This survey is distributed across the country and asks questions about many aspects of a respondent's life. Therefore, my data collection techniques involve the use of secondary data. Secondary data is simply data collected by another party. The benefit of using such data is the magnitude of responses and the validity of the material. Design of Proof My design of proof will rely on three separate multiple regression models. The first will have "Do you agree with suicide if a person no longer wants to live?" as the dependent variable and their employment status as the independent variable. Region will be the control variable. The last two regressions will have gender-specific mental health

rates as the dependent variables and the independent and control variables will be the same. To test my first null hypothesis, I will simply examine the b coefficient for the effect of unemployment on mental health. If the relationship is negative and significant (p<.10) I will be able to reject my first null hypothesis. This result would suggest that unemployment does negatively affect a person's mental health. To test my second null hypothesis, I will simply compare the b coefficients of both the male and female respondents. From these coefficients I will compute a z test and resulting z value. Should this z value be larger than 1.645 in absolute value and if the b coefficient is more negative for males than for females, I will be able to reject my second null hypothesis. Here is the formula I plan to use to compute a z test: (B for unemp5r) + ((B for unemp5rsex)*(1*2)) Limitations By using the GSS data I will face certain problems or limitations within my research. Interpretation of such questions as " Do you agree with suicide if a person no longer wants to live?" is very easily misunderstood. Certain persons may feel very differently about how they would classify the mental health of a person who favors suicide. My findings may lack the possibility to generalize about the population over time as the unemployment rates fluctuate over time. Considering that the GSS asks many different questions to thousands of people, the data is not specific to my research question. If it were specific to my research question, I would be able to examine the variables more closely. The primary weakness of my proof of design is my inability to control for all factors that may be associated with mental illness. These could be genetics, familial problems, or even relationship status. Therefore; my results could be proven to be spurious if I was able to control for all factors. Results Table 1 shows the three multiple regression models that allow me to test my hypotheses. The first model predicts the mental health rate for males and females combined, while models two and three predict male and female mental health rates, respectively. All three models include my central independent variable, that being unemployment, which is scored 1 for being unemployed and 0 for being employed. The model also controls for the region of residence for the respondent, both male and female, for all three models. Table 1: Effects of Unemployment on Mental Health in the United States

Variables Role Name Label Range MD Dataset





Independent SEX Independent UNEMP5R Independent REGION(Recoded) Independent UNEMP5RSEX Weight WTSSALL Logit Coefficients B SEX UNEMP5R REGION(Recoded) UNEMP5RSEX Constant
Color coding:

1-2 0-1


1 2 1 2 1


0-1 0-2



Test That Each Coefficient = 0 SE(B) .080 .246 .076 .158 .130
<-1.0 <0.0

T-statistic 3.541 -.785 3.282 -.125 10.641
>0.0 >1.0

Probability .000 .433 .001 .901 .000
>2.0 T

.285 -.193 .250 -.020 1.387

Effect of each variable: Smaller than average Larger than average

Log Likelihood = -2,829.964 LR Chi-sq(4) = 37.009

Pseudo R-sq = .006 p= .000

Univariate Statistics Mean Std Dev SEX UNEMP5R REGION(Recoded) UNEMP5RSEX 1.555 .229 .330 .345 .497 .420 .470 .677

SUICIDE4(Recoded) Recode for 'SUICIDE4' 0 = 1; 1 = *-* Recode for 'REGION' 1 = 5,6,7; 0 = 1,2,3,4,8,9



Allocation of cases (unweighted) Valid cases 7,152

Cases with invalid codes on 43,868 variables in the analysis Total cases 51,020

Results for model one show that the effect of unemployment on mental health is both negative and significant. This being said, I am able to reject my null hypothesis and allow my alternate hypothesis to stand. My alternative hypothesis is that unemployment is negatively related to mental health issues. My data proves that unemployed persons are more likely to favor suicide if the person feels they have nothing to live for. To test my second null hypothesis, I must compare the b coefficients of the effects of unemployment for both males and females. The effect does seem to be stronger for males than females but I must compute a z-value to know if the difference is significant. To do this I must perform the following: (-.193) +((-.020)*(1*2)=-.153 Because the z- value is smaller than 1.645, I cannot reject my second null hypothesis, so I will allow to stand. The null hypothesis states that the effects of unemployment on mental health will not be stronger for males than for females. Region does play a significant role in that southern persons have more mental health than northern persons. Conclusions: This paper used Agnew's Strain Theory to approach the study of poor mental health. Because unemployment is a great force within people's daily lives, the hypothesis that studied the unemployment rates of respondents was presented. As my study shows, results are consistent will the hypothesis. Using previously demonstrated samples, poor mental health is affected by the employment status of the respondents. This impact seems to be that same for both males and females. I also demonstrated that region was a factor on the mental health rate. Greater mental health problem rates are consistent with Agnew's strain theory on the effects of unemployment. A fundamental part of the strain theory is removal positive stimuli will lead to strain. This strain then creates negative emotions that lead to problems such as involvement in crime or poor mental health. Unemployment can be

considered a reason for poor mental health because it removes a person from social settings that provide positive stimuli. A person who is taken away from a work place lacks the positive stimuli they were provided with when having a job and socializing with others in the workplace. My results do have policy implications. Counseling centers should be made available to those persons who have become unemployed, perhaps free of charge. This data shows that a person who is unemployed has mental issues more frequently than person who are employed. Perhaps when a person leaves their job, along with unemployment benefits, like severance pay, they should also be provided with free counseling that they may participate in. Considering that the data presented in this paper do support my first alternate hypothesis, as well as Agnew’s Strain Theory, several weaknesses should be noted. The first weakness is simply that the data was not collected with my specific research question in mind. It was difficult to find secondary data that pertained to both the theory and my hypothesis. A person who favors suicide in such circumstances may argue that they have no mental health issues and vice versa. Another weakness in my research is that I controlled for only one factor, that being region. There are numerous other factors that could have made a difference in my research. There also could have been a factor that made the relationship between my dependent and independent variables spurious. Should another factor affect both variables, the relationship I found in my data may in fact be spurious. In conclusion, the data found in my research, when applied to mental health, does support Agnew’s General Strain Theory. Although this theory focuses on crime, this data shows that it can also be applied to other circumstances like mental health. Unemployment does decrease a person’s positive stimuli, leading to negative emotions within a person. The effect on males and females were not found to be significant, meaning that both men and women are affected equally by unemployment. I did find it interesting that person’s in the south have more mental health issues, considering their perceived lax feelings toward employment.

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