Access to occupational networks and ethnic variation of depressive symptoms in young adults in Sweden
Presented by : Alexander Miething (Stockholm University) ; Discussant : Myriam Khlat (Ined)
Young adults with non-Swedish background suffer more often from worse mental health than their peers without immigrant background. In particular, young adults with Iranian parents experience depressive symptoms more often.
Previous research has shown that mental health is influenced by individuals’ living circumstances, socioeconomic factors and contextual conditions. Also social capital research advocated that individuals’ access to social networks mobilizes resources that are supposed to affect mental health in a positive manner. Social networks fulfill different purposes and provide different forms of support. Occupational contacts, for example, may improve individuals’ labor market and career opportunities. Even younger adults who have not yet entered the labor market may benefit from these contacts.
The study is based on a representative longitudinal Swedish survey about 19- and 23-year-old Swedes whose parents were born in either Sweden, Iran or the former Yugoslavia. The used survey data allowed examining how young adults’ self-reported depressive symptoms relate to whether and how well they know persons in specific jobs.
The analysis showed an increased depression propensity for young women of Iranian origin who to a larger extent had contacts in the manual sector and with lower occupational prestige. For men and respondents with Yugoslavian parents and Swedish parents the respective associations were notably weaker.
The association between depressive symptoms and less prestigious occupational contacts in women of Iranian descent may stem from the long-term consequences of experienced downward social mobility during their parents’ process of immigration. The middle class backgrounds of many Iranian refugees in combination with experienced difficulties in finding adequate jobs when coming to Sweden may impose higher ambitions that their children advance on the labor market. This in turn may inflict status concerns and stress in their children (daughters), which subsequently increases the propensity to depressive symptoms in this specific group.
Alexander Miething is a sociologist and researcher at the Department of Public Health Sciences at Stockholm University. His area of research concerns the social determinants of health, particularly individual-level and community-level aspects of social inequalities, and how they are linked to health. A specific interest is on social capital, social relations and networks, and how these domains relate to people’s well-being and health behaviors. Alexander currently works in the SMASH project, and investigates health inequalities in individuals with immigrant background. He is also involved in a project on the long-term implications of social trust for health and other societal outcomes.