Mental health and coping strategies among social assistance receivers

John Andersen, Jørgen Elm Larsen, Maja Muller

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During the last decade the social assistance system in Denmark was been changed and become less generous. One important indication of this trend is that the social assistance benefit level was reduced to a lower level after 6 months. Furthermore the “workfare” obligations for social claiments (e.g. in terms of participation in job training schemes and a requirement? of a certain minimum amount ( app 3 months ) of employment in the open labour market has increased.

The arguments in the policy discource has been that lower benefits increases motivation and realistic, rational jobseeking behavior. In short: lower benefit levels increases motivation which in turn increases labour market inclusion.

This paper presents empirical results from an ongoing research project ( Consequences of living on the lowest social benefits financed by the Danish Social Council (Rådet for Socialt Udsatte) ,2008-2011) about living conditions and how Danish citizens on the lowest benefits coped with their life situation. The longitudinal data followed the long term receivers of social assistance respondents over 1 year in order to observe changes in (selvreported) health, living conditions and coping strategies The data consisted of 2 national surveys as well as 2 series of qualitative interviews with citizens on social assistance

Among other things the respondents were about what they regarded as the most important barriers for improving their labour market and income position. A clear majority of the citizens responded that the reduction of their social assistance benefits after 3 months had reduced their mental health and not improved their social energy for job seeking. These results support the idea that lower benefits has a negative impact on active coping for labour market inclusion. A huge parts of the respondents reported that bad health – including mental health - was the dominant barrier for active coping with their life situation.

The results indicates that the present employment and social policy measures should have a much stronger focus on capacity building with regard mental health for citizens on the lowest social benefits
Original languageEnglish
Publication date29 Aug 2011
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 29 Aug 2011
EventSundhedsfremme, magt og velfærd - Roskilde, Denmark
Duration: 29 Aug 201130 Aug 2011


ConferenceSundhedsfremme, magt og velfærd
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