After more than 25 years since reunification, the former German Democratic Republic (GDR; often known in English as East Germany; in German DDR) and its socio-political system have remained a point of reference for the analysis of societal, social, and individual processes in Germany. There is a lack of knowledge about the on-going impact of the East German past on the German general population. Little is known how structural GDR-specific circumstances might have shaped personality traits and how the interaction of personality traits with East German past affects current mental health. In order to shed light on these questions, the interdisciplinary research group DDR-PSYCH was established lead by researchers of the University Medical Center in Mainz.
Data of the Gutenberg Health Study (GHS), the Study of Health in Pomerania (SHIP), the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP), the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), and the Independent Service for Survey Research, Methodology and Analysis (USUMA) will be analyzed. The age range of subjects in the study population is 14 to 99 years, covering several generations and encompassing the entire spectrum from adolescence to adulthood. In total, about 83,000 cases will be subjected to longitudinal analysis and 67,000 cases to cross-sectional analysis. The project aims to identify risk and protective factors (i.e. personality traits) in individuals who lived in the former GDR and to analyze pathways for the differences found between citizens of East and West Germany. Confounders such as measurement inequivalence of questionnaires and domestic migration will be taken into account.
The SOEP project at SOEP will make systematic comparisons of the way socio-economic trajectories and east-west migration can help explaining individual mental health and differences in the population level mental health outcomes between East and West Germany 30 years after reunification. One particular contribution will be the integration of life course perspective from sociology with the sociocultural moves perspectives from psychology to contextualize vulnerability and resilience factors for mental health.