New theory suggests having such people in your social circle will make you feel worse about yourself
Having high-status people in your social network may not always enhance your happiness as a new study has found that knowing people who enjoy comparatively higher status may be detrimental to your mental health.
For the study, Lijun Song, assistant professor of sociology in Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, US, compared people from China and the US.
Song compared two competing theories for how the status of the people we know affects our mental health.
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The first theory, social capital theory, centers on resources: The more resources people in your personal network have, the more you will benefit from them.
The second theory, comparative reference group theory, centers on comparison: The higher status people in your network have (compared to you), the worse you will feel about yourself.
Whether one theory or the other predominates in a particular society depends on cultural contexts.
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Song found that in urban China, knowing high-status people was detrimental to mental health.
This was true whether they knew mostly high-status people or anyone comparatively better than themselves.
Song says these findings indicate that comparative reference group theory predominates in urban China, because while collectivist societies are more oriented toward interdependence, they also promote negative self-comparisons to people of higher status.
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In the US, knowing high-status people or comparatively better than themselves was also detrimental to mental health, consistent with comparative reference group theory.
The findings appeared in the journal Social Science and Medicine.