Social rank theory of depression: A systematic review of self-perceptions of social rank and their relationship with depressive symptoms and suicide risk

Wetherall, K., Robb, K. A. and O'Connor, R. C. (2019) Social rank theory of depression: A systematic review of self-perceptions of social rank and their relationship with depressive symptoms and suicide risk. Journal of Affective Disorders, 246, pp. 300-319. (doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2018.12.045) (PMID:30594043)

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Background: Depression can be debilitating, as well as a risk factor for self-harm and suicide. Social rank theory (SRT) suggests depression stems from feelings of defeat and entrapment that ensue from experiencing oneself to be of lower rank than others. This study aims to review the literature investigating the relationship between self-perceptions of social rank and depressive symptoms or suicidal ideation/behaviour. Methods: A keyword search of three psychological and medical databases was completed (Psychinfo, Medline, Web of Knowledge). Studies were quality assessed using established criteria. Results: An initial 1290 records were identified. After application of inclusion and exclusion criteria, 70 remained measuring depressive symptoms (n = 68), self-harm (n = 3) and suicidal ideation (n = 3). The main measures assessing social rank were the social comparison scale (SCS; n = 32) and subjective social status (SSS, n = 32), with six additional papers including another measure of social rank. In univariate analyses, as perceptions of social rank decreased, depressive symptoms (and suicidal ideation/self-harm) increased. Multivariate analyses indicated that social rank may act as a psychosocial mechanism to explain the relationship between social factors (in particular socio-economic status) and depressive symptoms. Additionally, psychological variables, such as rumination or self-esteem, may mediate or moderate the relationship between social rank and depressive or suicidal symptoms. Limitations: Study quality was variable and 89% of studies were cross-sectional. Conclusions: Although more prospective research is required, this review highlights the importance of understanding an individual's perception of their social position compared to others as it may lead to an enhanced understanding of the aetiology of depressive disorders.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors. It was supported by ROC's research funding provided by University of Glasgow.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:O'Connor, Professor Rory and Robb, Professor Katie and Wetherall, Miss Karen
Authors: Wetherall, K., Robb, K. A., and O'Connor, R. C.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Health & Wellbeing > Mental Health and Wellbeing
Journal Name:Journal of Affective Disorders
Publisher:Elsevier BV
ISSN (Online):1573-2517
Published Online:18 December 2018
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2018 Elsevier
First Published:First published in Journal of Affective Disorders 246:300-319
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher

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