Debt and the green-eyed monster
Press release issued: 23 June 2005
Modern perspectives on the seven deadly sins are the focus of a new report from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), which features a study on envy written by a researcher at Bristol University.
The ESRC report uses the seven deadly sins - pride, anger, lust, avarice, gluttony, envy and sloth - as a way of looking at some pressing issues of modern life: religious conflict, rage in children and adults, sexual behaviour, corporate greed, binge drinking, rising personal debt and political apathy.
The report explores these issues afresh - and often questions conventional wisdom - by looking at the evidence and drawing on the wealth of information now available on people's health, incomes, education, employment, families, relationships and social attitudes.
Stephen McKay's study, Debt: envy, penury or necessity? asks what part envy plays in the apparently spiralling stock of personal debt in the UK, which last year passed the £1 trillion mark.
Looking at data from the British Household Panel Survey, McKay finds that the average man has borrowed close to £5,000 while the average woman owes around £3,000. What's more, people who are envious of what others have, and dissatisfied with their own incomes, do tend to have higher levels of credit and greater difficulties making repayments. But the size of this effect is small compared with the effects of age, income and changes in circumstances.
Seven Deadly Sins: A new look at society through an old lens (PDF) is published by the ESRC to launch Social Science Week 2005, which takes place across the UK from 20-24 June. The week is about highlighting research from the UK's social scientists and how this can contribute to better policymaking and, ultimately, a better society.