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Objectives

Many studies have examined how equity in personal relationships affects mental health and well-being. Often, such studies use measures based on how people perceive the balance in a relationship. In this study, the reverse causal path is studied, from well-being to perceived equity. The expectation is that depressed mood would lead to more negative views of the degree of equity in a relationship.

Methods

The reciprocal relationships between depressive symptoms and perceived equity are studied using a large representative survey with two waves of measurement. The focus is on intergenerational relationships and the perspective taken is that of the elderly parent.

Findings

Analyses show that there is little effect of equity on depressed mood once this is analyzed in a longitudinal fashion. More evidence is obtained for the reverse path: mothers (but not fathers) who are depressed develop a more negative view of the degree of equity in the relationships they have with their children, even when reports of actual support exchange are taken into account.

Conclusions

Depressed mood can bias perceptions of equity. In a more general way, the findings are in line with some recent experimental studies that have emphasized the importance of feelings for perceptions.