Medical research shows that healthy sleep has significant benefits for human wellbeing. Yet, in the social sciences, we know surprisingly little about how different social and economic factors affect individuals' sleep quantity and quality.
In our recent study, published in Social Science Research, we contributed to the emerging social-epidemiological literature on the social determinants of sleep by considering how (i) experiencing poverty and material deprivation, and (ii) living in a local area with poor economic circumstances can result in sleep loss through financial worry, uncertainty and stress.
To accomplish this, we analysed a sample of over 9,000 individuals who participated in a high-quality nationally-representative Australian survey, the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey. We modelled these complex data using state-of-the-art multilevel regression models.
Our findings revealed that individuals who experience individual-level economic vulnerability sleep fewer hours each night than comparable individuals who do not experience such hardships. Similarly, individuals who live in deprived local areas (operationalized as local areas with high unemployment rates) sleep fewer hours than those who live in more advantaged local areas.
Most strikingly, we found strong evidence of so-called cross-level interactions: the negative effect that poor local economic conditions have on individuals' sleep duration is substantially stronger amongst people who experience economic vulnerability at the individual level. For example, a person experiencing material deprivation who lives in a local area with a 14% unemployment rate sleeps on average 40 minutes less per day than a similar person who lives in a local area with a 2% unemployment rate.
Our results highlight how individual- and aggregate-level sources of variation in individuals' sleep should be considered jointly, and stress the importance of conceptualizing sleep as a social issue with important ramifications on public health. Status and location can intersect to produce and reproduce disadvantage systems.
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3. Do you have any ideas to expand upon this research? Are you looking for collaborators?
More research on the social determinants of sleep is sorely needed. We look forwards to collaborating with other researchers and teams who undertake work in this important area of social science inquiry.
Dr Francisco (Paco) Perales holds an undergraduate degree in Sociology from London Metropolitan University, a Masters degree in Sociology and Panel Data Analysis from the University of Essex, and a...
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