Which people in our lives do we really value the most?
This paper studies the mental distress caused by bereavement. The largest emotional losses are from the death of a spouse; the second-worst in severity are the losses from the death of a child; the third-worst is the death of a parent. The paper explores how happiness regression equations might be used in tort cases to calculate compensatory damages for emotional harm and pain-and-suffering. We examine alternative well-being variables, discuss adaptation, consider the possibility that bereavement affects someone’s marginal utility of income, and suggest a procedure for correcting for the endogeneity of income. Although the paper’s contribution is methodological, and further research is needed, some illustrative compensation amounts are discussed.
Source: “Death, Happiness, and the Calculation of Compensatory Damages” from IZA Discussion Paper No. 3159, November 2007
Generally, men suffer less than women when loved ones die:
Men suffer a significantly smaller blow from deaths than women (with the exception of losing a partner, which seems to have a symmetrical impact on psychological distress on both men and women). This is consistent with some medical evidence that hospitalization rates for mental illness are higher, after child death, among women: Li et al (2005). When a father dies, for example, women here experience on average a worsening of 1.127 GHQ points; men experience a worsening by 0.534 points. The death of a child raises a woman’s psychological distress by 2.169 GHQ points. A man’s is raised by 1.315 points.
Another passage was quite shocking:
…does bereavement have a long-lasting effect? Table 3 estimates life satisfaction equations as a function of events that happened long before. In particular, the logic of Table 3 is to see whether, controlling for deaths in the immediate period, there is any scarring effect on those who had experienced death prior to wave 7. Mostly such scarring seems to disappear (although some small negative effects can be seen, insignificantly different from zero). There are two exceptions: long-dead friends carry a long-term happiness penalty; a long-dead child carries a small long-term happiness gain. We do not feel qualified to speculate on psychological explanations for these patterns.
Does having children make you more like your parents?