Depressed Peers in Early Parenthood

This event has now finished.
  • Date and time: Wednesday 21 June 2023, 1pm to 2pm
  • Location: In-person only
    A/D271 (above Alcuin Porters)
  • Audience: Open to staff, students
  • Admission: Free admission, booking not required

Event details

Speaker: Miriam Wüst

Abstract:  We examine peer effects in mental health problems among new mothers. To study these spillovers, we exploit an institutional feature of the Danish public health service: Home visiting nurses assign consenting new mothers to 4-6 peers in “new mother groups”. Those groups constitute informal fora for meetings among these externally assigned peers. Combining data on group assignment, pre-group meetings mental health screenings and family background, we show that mother group assignment is arbitrary conditional on a narrow set of well-defined characteristics observed by nurses. Exploiting the resulting variation in the mental health status of members across groups, we document that exposure to a depressed peer during early parenthood has a negative impact on the mental health of other group members: Mothers exposed to a depressed peer are more likely to take up additional mental health care at their general practitioner and specialists. Corroborating these findings based on uptake of care, we document worse self-reported mental health for mothers at around 9 months of their child’s life and potentially impacts on labor market outcomes for treated mothers immediately after the period of parental leave. Exploring the heterogeneity of mental health impacts, we argue that social contagion is likely to be one driving mechanism for our findings. 

Coauthors: Jonas Cuzulan Hirani & Anne Toft Hansen

Host: Emma Tominey (York)