Double burden? Implications of indebtedness to general life satisfaction following negative life events in international comparison
While debt is not problematic per se, it can become an additional burden when people experience negative life events–like unemployment, a severe disease, divorce, or their partner’s death–which can be detrimental for individuals’ subjective wellbeing. We investigate first, a potential moderating effect of economic resources or, better yet, lack thereof in the relations between negative life events and general life satisfaction, and second, whether this moderating effect is a function of state-level policies. We expect that, on average, debt has a reinforcing effect on the negative relationship between negative life events and general life satisfaction. Moreover, we expect that country-level policies protecting individuals from the negative consequences of experiencing a negative life event or indebtedness can explain the country differences in the moderating effect of debt. We test our assumptions among the population aged 50+ applying data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement (SHARE). We apply a two-stage fixed-effects regression approach to estimate the moderation effect of debt on the relationship between negative life events and general life satisfaction within and across countries. Although we find an almost zero average moderating effect of debt across countries, we find large variance in the moderating effects between countries. This variance can be explained by debt regime, but not by the generosity of the public unemployment and the public health systems, or the level of gender equality.