Contextual Determinants of Hopelessness: Investigating Socioeconomic Factors and Emotional Climates
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Perceptions of the future are crucial components of individual well-being. Hopelessness, which is the sense that the future is a dead end, begins with the occurrence of negative life events and develops through the perception of consistent and pervasive negative outcomes. This study investigated the role of the socioeconomic aspects of the context and shared emotions (emotional climates) within a region in reducing or exacerbating hopelessness. Emotional climates have been defined as the emotional relationships constructed among members of a society, and they describe the environmental quality of a particular community. Multilevel modeling with individuals nested into regions (i.e., Swiss cantons) was used to explore the relationship between context and hopelessness. Data from the project “Vulnerability and Growth,” the Swiss Household Panel and official socioeconomic indicators were used. Spatial-weighting methods were applied to estimate depressive and optimistic emotional climates at the canton level. The results show that hopelessness is primarily affected by individual factors such as personality and life events. However, the analyses revealed that socioeconomic conditions and the optimistic and depressive climates that prevail in cantons also affected individuals’ perceptions of hopelessness. Individuals were more likely to feel hopeless in cantons with high unemployment rates and high levels of shared negative emotions. In contrast, positive emotional climates played a protective role against hopelessness. Acknowledgment of the influence of context on individuals’ perceptions of the future and the correlation of their states of anxiety and depression is pivotal for planning effective interventions to prevent depression.
KeywordsDepression Emotions Life change events Protective factors Risk factors
This study is the result of research developed within the framework of the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES, which is financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation. The author is grateful to the Principal Investigator of “Vulnerability and Growth,” Prof. Pasqualina Perrig-Chiello, and the Swiss National Science Foundation for its financial support. This study also uses the data collected by the Swiss Household Panel (SHP), which is based at the Swiss Centre of Expertise in the Social Sciences FORS. The project is financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation.
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