Academic journal article Italian Sociological Review

Economic Crisis and Well-Being in Italy

Academic journal article Italian Sociological Review

Economic Crisis and Well-Being in Italy

Article excerpt


Literature about the consequences of economic crisis on people's well-being has highlighted some statistical connections. In particular, researchers agree on the fact that economic crises bring an increase in suicides, states of psychological depression, and abuse of alcohol along with them. This work deals with the issue of human impact of economic crisis, and, through a panel of data concerning Italian population, it searches for any possible connection with less critical but anyway significant phenomena, such as the general state of well-being and subjectively perceived health.

Keywords: health, well-being, economic crisis.

1. Introduction

«Suicides for economic reasons» is the wording used by Italian police to define a considerable number of suicides that marked the first half of 2012. Observers and experts warn mass media and politicians in order to avoid the so-called «suicidal contamination» effect, and they encourage to be careful in attributing the cause of suicides to economic conditions and giving prominence to such an interpretation of this phenomenon in the press.

These are certainly forms of caution, exhortations to downsizing interpretative short circuits, appeals for a greater sense of reality which are undoubtedly justified. Nevertheless, the fact remains that economic conditions affect people's well-being. This impact is worth to be investigated also through the contribution of empirical data concerning the specific Italian case. This is what will be carried out in this study, that will wonder about the possible impact of crisis on opinions and subjective perception of well-being states by individuals, leaving out the most humanly tragic consequences of economic crisis (such as suicides).

For this purpose, the second paragraph proposes a review of literature about this topic, and it advances some hypotheses of research. The third paragraph, on the other hand, aims at giving information about time and modes that have characterized Italian crisis, in order to contextualize data of the empirical survey. The fourth paragraph presents the analysis of data provided by the panel of the Italian «Observatory on families' consumption strategies». The fifth paragraph proposes a concise discussion of the research's results and some final remarks.

2. Review of literature

There is an extensive literature about psycho-social factors that influence people's well-being. As far as subjective perception of well-being is concerned, researchers basically agree on applying a multidimensional perspective1. Among the several factors that affect subjective well-being, there are: i) biological features, such as age; ii) psychological features, such as structure of personality and cognitive processes; iii) social features, such as social support, satisfaction deriving from a positive social exchange, chance of achieving one's goals and playing the desired social roles; and, finally, iv) cultural features, such as the possibility of interiorizing, socially sharing and putting a series of values considered significant into action.

As demonstrated by a number of empirical researches (Diener & Oishi 2000; Diener & Seligman 2004; Viinamaki et. al. 1995; Fitch et al. 2009), among the factors influencing subjectively perceived well-being, economical aspects play a prominent role, and trends of crisis of the economic system doubtless have an important impact. Investigations upon psycho-sanitary consequences of economic crises date back even to the early twentieth century and they focus on the role of employment status on subjective perception of well-being. In 1938, while commenting on one of their studies, Eisenberg and Lazarsfeld stated: «Just having a job itself is not as important as having a feeling of economic security. Those who are economically insecure, employed or unemployed, have a low morale» (1938: 361).

Through their remarks, both social scientists pointed out an important feature in scientific debate about this issue, the ambivalence of the effect produced by economic crisis and the possible consequent unemployment upon people's psychological health. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.