Effects of Economic Uncertainty on Mental Health in the COVID-19 Pandemic Context: Social Identity Disturbance, Job Uncertainty and Psychological Well-Being Model

International Journal of Innovation and Economic Development 6 (1):61-74 (2020)
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Psychological well-being is a major global concern receiving more scholarly attention following the 2008 Great Recession, and it becomes even more relevant in the context of COVID-19 outbreak. In this study, we investigated the impact of economic uncertainty resulting from natural disasters, epidemics, and financial crisis on individuals' mental health. As unemployment rate exponentially increases, individuals are faced with health and economic concerns. Not all society members are affected to the same extent, and marginalized groups, such as those suffering from chronic mental illnesses or low-income families cannot afford the downsizing, mass lay-offs and lack of access to public health services. Psychiatric profession is familiarized with the phenomenon of intolerance of uncertainty (IU), and we examine how this concept is associated with job uncertainty and social identity disturbance. Several studies have formally investigated the effects of IU, but to our knowledge, this is the first research integrating the psychological well-being, job uncertainty and identity disturbance caused by economic breakdown. Literature points to many reported cases of PTSD, anxiety, depression and suicidal tendencies following major social disasters. Yet, we have undertaken to analyze the subjective experiences underlying the self-harming behaviors in an attempt to fill the methodological gap by drawing insights from prominent psychological, sociological and economic theories. We find economic uncertainty to have a positive relation to job uncertainty and identity disturbance, and a negative relationship with psychological well-being. Psychological well-being depends on coherency between both abstract subjective and concrete objective identity, and when these perceptions are inconsistent, cognitive dissonance arises resulting in identity disturbance. We argue that stability is not associated with monetary advantage only, but also with a wide range of other benefits that are crucial for individuals' growth, satisfaction and sense of identity. Therefore, we propose the implementation of social support and public welfare policies to mitigate health risks during the turbulent socio-economic changes.


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