9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN16 Sociology of Health and Illness

2009-09-05 09:00:00 2009-09-05 10:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 09:00 - 10:30 Mental Health Issues in Europe I Building I, 1E2

Over-education in Europe: how stable is the impact of education on depression?

Objective: The beneficial effect of education on mental health is a consistent finding in social epidemiology. Question is whether this effect has changed with the further expansion of higher education in Europe, following the baby boom. This paper focuses on the effect of education on depression, over and beyond value orientations -self-determination and achievement- and present job characteristics -insecurity, stress and decision control-. Additionally, we study if the effect of education on depression varies according to the mean education level of each country's population.

Method: The sample exists of the working population of 21 European countries between 25 and 60 years old (N=17.770), based on data of the European Social Survey, Round 3 (2006-2007). Depression is measured using an 8-item version of the Center of Epidemiological Studies-Depression scale. A multilevel model was estimated by means of the Mixed Model procedure in SPSS.

Results: Each additional year of education attained reduces the amount of depressive complaints reported. The beneficial effect of education persists when current value orientations and job characteristics are considered, adjusted for confounding factors such as gender, age and income. Self-perceived job insecurity, stress and pursuing achievement increase the number of depressive complaints, while job decision control and self-direction reduce them. Moreover, the cross-level interaction between education and aggregated level of education turns out to be significant, taking economic development and unemployment rate into account. The positive effect of education on mental health erodes as the general education level of the population rises.

Conclusion: This study confirms the importance of education in explaining the social gradient in mental health. Even when current job characteristics and value orientations are taken into account, the direct effect of education persists. Nevertheless, our study shows that the acquired educational credentials have diminishing returns on mental health. Hence, over-education seems to limit the ameliorating effect of education on mental health.