The long-run effects of peers on mental health

Kiessling, Lukas and Norris, Jonathan (2023) The long-run effects of peers on mental health. Economic Journal, 133 (649). pp. 281-322. ISSN 0013-0133 (

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This paper studies how peers in school affect students’ mental health. Guided by a theoretical framework, we find that increasing students’ relative ranks in their cohorts by one standard deviation improves their mental health by 6% of a standard deviation conditional on own ability. These effects are more pronounced for low-ability students, persistent for at least 14 years, and carry over to economic long-run outcomes. Moreover, we document a pronounced asymmetry: Students who receive negative rather than positive shocks react more strongly. Our findings therefore provide evidence on how the school environment can have long-lasting consequences for individuals’ well-being.