According to a new study, children who spend more time with richer friends have poorer mental health than those who spend more time with economically equal friends.
Researchers from the University of Cambridge discovered that feeling poorer can lead to a variety of mental health issues such as low self-esteem, behaviour problems such as hyperactivity and anger, and anxiety.
Participants who shared the same financial situation as their friends had higher self-esteem and better social behaviour.
The authors of the study, which was published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, believe that people who hang out with those of higher socioeconomic status feel inadequate and uncomfortable.
In a press release, lead author Blanca Piera Pi-Sunyer, a Cambridge Gates Scholar and PhD candidate in the university’s Department of Psychology said, “Adolescence is a time of transitions when we use social comparisons to make self-judgments and develop our sense of self.”
A sense of economic position, particularly in the immediate environment, could pose a challenge to a sense of belonging, according to Blanca.
“During adolescence, belonging is especially important for well-being and psychosocial functioning.”
She claimed that any sense of difference could be detrimental and raise the risk of social issues like bullying. When we are young, wealth comparisons with others can “contribute to a sense of social and personal self-worth.”
Younger people frequently compare themselves to their friends, even though comparisons are unhealthy. Adolescents are also troubled by other factors besides financial insecurities, such as popularity and attractiveness.
In nearly 13,000 adolescent friend groups in the United Kingdom, the authors examined perceived economic inequality. All respondents provided information about their income and were all born between 2000 and 2002.
In comparison to kids who felt equal, those who believed they were less fortunate than their friends had significantly lower self-esteem (6%–8%). They were found to be 11% less happy than children who had the same amount of money.
These children were also more likely than others to be bullied. Those who felt richer than their friends, on the other hand, were 5% more likely to be bullies themselves.
“Many studies indicate that young people from disadvantaged backgrounds have more mental health problems objectively. The subjective perception of disadvantage is also relevant, as our findings demonstrate,” added Blanca.