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Money troubles are more damaging to well-being of the self-employed

Financial distress is more damaging to the well-being of the self-employed than those in employment, finds new research from Trinity Business School.

According to the research, authored by Dr Martha O’Hagan-Luff, Assistant Professor in Finance at Trinity Business School, alongside fellow Trinity academics, Dr Jenny Berrill and Dr André Van Stel, and Dr Damien Cassells from Technological University Dublin, financial problems are more strongly associated with lower levels of well-being for those that are self-employed.

The study, which compared how the relationship between financial distress and well-being differed between those in employment and the self-employed, as well as comparing how this relationship differed between self-employed individuals with and without employees, revealed a greater negative association between financial troubles and the overall health and life satisfaction of the solo self-employed compared to wage-earning employees.

It was also revealed that a negative impact on mental health and quality of life was most pronounced in the self-employed who themselves had employees.

In undertaking the research, the academics used data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) database, a European dataset of wage-employed and self-employed workers aged 50 and over.

Harnessing four measures of well-being – overall health, mental health, life satisfaction and quality of life, the study offers large-scale evidence of the relationship between financial distress and well-being and how this relationship may differ between different types of income and self-employment.

Martha O’Hagan-Luff, Assistant Professor in Finance at Trinity Business School, says:

“The findings of our study are particularly relevant during crisis periods such as during the Covid pandemic, demonstrating the importance of providing adequate financial support for the self-employed, given that we find that financial distress has a more pronounced negative effect on their wellbeing than the wage-employed.”

Link to paper, The relationship between financial distress and well-being: Exploring the role of self-employment


For more information, a copy of the research paper, or to speak with Dr Martha O’Hagan-Luff, contact Jonny Stone at or call 01582 790704.

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