Visual Universitätsmedizin Mainz

GDR-Past and mental health: Risk and protective factors (DDR-PSYCH)



Principal investigators

Prof. Dr. rer. biol. hum. Elmar Brähler
Univ.-Prof. Dr. rer. med. Manfred Beutel
Univ.-Prof. Dr. Ana Nanette Tibubos


Project team

M.A. (Soz.) Lisa Braunheim (Ph.d. candidate)
Dr. des. Ayline Heller (research associate)
M.Sc. (Psych.) Christoph Kasinger (Ph.d. candidate)
M.Sc. (Soz.) Daniëlle Otten (Ph.d. candidate)
Nora Etzold (research assistant)
Laura Gapta (research assistant)

Research topic

The political system of the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) remains a central point of reference for many analyses of societal, social and individual processes, even after 30 years of reunification. The influence of the GDR on mental health and its measurement has yet to be systematically examined. To this end, the interdisciplinary joint research project DDR-PSYCH led by the University Medical Center in Mainz analyzes profound longitudinal as well as repeated cross-sectional data to uncover how GDR-related experiences have an impact on mental health and well-being over time. Additionally, factors that may foster psychological resilience are being examined. Among the co-operation partners are the Robert-Koch-Institute, the University of Greifswald, the University of Leipzig as well as the Centre for Audio-Visual Production (ZAP) of the Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz.


University Medical Center Mainz: Internal migration as a risk and protective factor

As head of the joint research project, the University Medical Center in Mainz is responsible for coordinating the subgroups regarding analytical aspects (e.g. joint data analysis), promotion of young researchers (e.g. through summer schools and networking opportunities), public relations, and knowledge transfer.
Moreover, the group focusses on German internal migration (East-to-west and west-to-east) as a risk and protective factor for mental health. To this end, three sources of data are used: 1) secondary analyses of the cohort study “Gutenberg Health Study” (GHS) 2) secondary analyses of previous German representative surveys conducted by USUMA (“Unabhängiger Service für Umfragen, Methoden und Analysen”) and 3) a new German representative survey by USUMA, which will aim to fill the gaps of previous surveys.
First, data of five large, German representative studies based on cross-sectional as well as longitudinal surveys will be analyzed independently, followed by a comprehensive investigation based on coordinated evaluation plans. Multivariate relationship patterns of mental health will be investigated, while also considering structural influences by the GDR-system as well as transgenerational aspects.

Partner projects

Socio-economical life courses in the transition from GDR to the federal republic – ruptures, continuities and the effects on mental well-being (German Institute for Economic Research, DIW Berlin)
GDR-past, social situation and effects on mental and psychosocial health (Robert Koch-Institute)
Biographical transitions, psychosocial resources and subjective quality of life (University of Greifswald)
Audiovisual knowledge transfer, media development and –production (Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz)

Recent publications

Verbund-Publikationen - DDR Psych (


Kasinger, C., Heller, A., Brähler, E. (2023): Das Nachbeben der deutschen Vereinigung. Psychologische und soziologische Perspektiven.