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Financial Strain, Mastery, and Psychological Distress: A Comment on Spuriousness in the Stress Process

Tue, August 15, 2:30 to 4:10pm, Palais des congrès de Montréal, Level 5, 516A

Abstract

The association between financial strain and psychological distress, and the protective role of psychosocial resources such as mastery, have been central lines of inquiry within the sociological study of mental health. Relative to the body of such research, few studies have explored these relationships longitudinally, and even fewer have done so while comprehensively controlling for all time-stable confounders. Drawing from three waves of a large sample of Canadians, we utilize random and fixed effects regression strategies to 1) assess the impact of objective and subjective financial strain on psychological distress and anger, and 2) examine the buffering role of mastery in the face of these economic hardships. In random effects models, both objective and subjective financial strain are associated with distress and anger. In fixed effects models that control for all time-stable confounders, the effect of objective strain is reduced to non-significance for both outcomes. The effect of subjective strain of subjective strain is also reduced in fixed effects models, but remains statistically significant. Finally, mastery weakens the association between subjective strain and distress, and this effect is robust to the influence of time-stable controls, but mastery does not buffer the strain-anger relationship in either random or fixed-effects models. Collectively, our findings demonstrate that mental health consequences objective strain may be over-estimated if time stable confounders are not taken into account. Further, discrepancies in the buffering role of mastery reinforce calls for the assessment of multiple outcomes in mental health research. Implications for the stress process model will be discussed.

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