Peer-reviewed publications

  • Young people’s mental and social distress in times of international crisis: evidence from helpline calls, 2019-2022, with Marius Brülhart and Rafael Lalive. Scientific Reports 13, 11858 (2023). Stata code PNAS News Feature

    Abstract: We document mental and social distress of children, adolescents and adults, using data on 3 million calls to German helplines between January 2019 and May 2022. High-frequency data from crisis helpline logs offer rich information on the evolution of “revealed distress” among the most vulnerable, unaffected by researchers’ study design and framing. Distress of adults, measured by the volume of calls, rose significantly after both the outbreak of the pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In contrast, the overall revealed distress of children and adolescents did not increase during those crises. The nature of young people’s concerns, however, changed more strongly than for adults after the COVID-19 outbreak. Consistent with the effects of social distancing, call topics of young people shifted from problems with school and peers to problems with family and mental health. We find the share of severe mental health problems among young people to have increased with a delay, in the second and third year of the pandemic.

  • Mental health concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic as revealed by helpline calls, with Marius Brülhart, Rafael Lalive and Stephanie Reich. Nature 600: 121-126 (2021). PDF Stata code Behind the paper Coronapod Nature News&Views

    Abstract: Mental health is an important component of public health, especially in times of crisis. However, monitoring public mental health is difficult because data are often patchy and low-frequency. Here we complement established approaches by using data from helplines, which offer a real-time measure of ‘revealed’ distress and mental health concerns across a range of topics. We collected data on 8 million calls from 19 countries, focusing on the COVID-19 crisis. Call volumes peaked six weeks after the initial outbreak, at 35% above pre-pandemic levels. The increase was driven mainly by fear (including fear of infection), loneliness and, later in the pandemic, concerns about physical health. Relationship issues, economic problems, violence and suicidal ideation, however, were less prevalent than before the pandemic. This pattern was apparent both during the first wave and during subsequent COVID-19 waves. Issues linked directly to the pandemic therefore seem to have replaced rather than exacerbated underlying anxieties. Conditional on infection rates, suicide-related calls increased when containment policies became more stringent and decreased when income support was extended. This implies that financial relief can allay the distress triggered by lockdown measures and illustrates the insights that can be gleaned from the statistical analysis of helpline data.

  • Class warfare: Political exclusion of the poor and the roots of social-revolutionary terrorism, 1860-1950, with Tim Krieger and Daniel Meierrieks. Defence and Peace Economics 32(6): 681-697 (2021). Also published in: Gaibulloev, Khusrav, and Todd Sandler, eds.: On Terrorist Groups — Formation, Interactions, Survivability and Attacks (Routledge, 2023). Replication files

    Abstract: We examine the effect of class cleavages on terrorist activity by anarchist and leftist terrorist groups in 99 countries over the 1860–1950 period. We find that higher levels of political exclusion of the poor, our main measure of class conflict, were associated with higher levels of social-revolutionary terrorist activity during this time period. This finding is robust to an instrumental-variable approach and further robustness checks. We argue that class cleavages – in the form of the monopolization of political power by the rich – perpetuated and exacerbated the socio-economic ordeal of the poor, while simultaneously curtailing their means to effect relief in the ordinary political process. Consistent with our expectations, this provoked terrorist violence by groups whose ideological orientation highlighted concerns over class conflict, economic equality and the political participation of the poor. Indeed, our empirical analysis also shows that terrorist groups motivated by other ideologies (e.g. extreme nationalism) did not respond to political exclusion of the poor in the same manner, which further emphasizes the role of ideological inclinations in the terrorist response to class antagonisms.

Other publications and work in progress

  • “Lost in lockdown? COVID-19, social distancing, and mental health in Germany”, with Stephanie Reich (née Armbruster). Covid Economics, Vetted and Real-Time Papers 22: 117-153 (2020)

  • “Terror and tourism”, with Günther Schulze

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