Junior Research Group "Social and Psychological Determinants of Mental Health in the Life Course" (SocPsych-MH)

The aim of the Junior Research Group SocPsych-MH will be to strengthen research on mental health at the SOEP, taking an interdisciplinary perspective. A particular focus will be on the interplay between structural factors—from international, national, and regional contexts to family constellations, socio-economic life course trajectories, and individual psychological characteristics—that can create vulnerabilities or resilience to risk factors for mental health.

This focus will be reflected in the three complementary themes of three research projects that Hannes Kröger is heading at the SOEP.

The first research project is “The legacy of the GDR and mental health: Risk and protective factors” (DDR-PSYCH, co-headed by David Richter, DIW Berlin), with its SOEP-based sub-project “Socio-economic trajectories after reunification in Germany—disruptions, continuity, and consequences for mental health”. It will systematically compare how socio-economic trajectories and East-West migration can help to explain both individual mental health differences and differences in mental health outcomes at the population level between East and West Germany after reunification. One particular contribution will be the integration of the life-course perspective from sociology and theories from psychology to predict vulnerability and resilience factors for mental health.

The second project, “Dynamics of Mental Health of Migrants—Analyzing dynamics of resilience and vulnerabilities using a synthesis of socio-structural and psychological approaches” (DMHM, co-headed by Ana Tibubos of the University Medical Center at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz), follows a similar approach. It takes a longitudinal perspective on the mental health of migrants in four countries (the UK, Australia, Germany, and the US). These countries host migrant communities with very different histories and structural compositions. The goal is to test under what circumstances personality characteristics and family structure can become sources of resilience or vulnerability.

The third project, “Longitudinal aspects of the interaction between health and integration of refugees in Germany” (LARGE, co-headed by Jürgen Schupp, DIW Berlin), is part of a DFG research unit in the field of public health, “Refugee migration to Germany: A magnifying glass for broader public health challenges” (PH-LENS). PH-LENS considers refugees as a particularly relevant case for the analysis of “othering”. Within PH-LENS, LARGE investigates whether family constellations and regional deprivation can make refugees resilient or vulnerable to experiences of “othering”.

All three research projects share the approach of identifying sources of vulnerability and resilience with respect to mental health in important demographic groups, drawing on theories from sociology, psychology, and public health.