How economic recessions can affect the mental health of a population

There is an unfortunate commonality in society today and it is that issues relating to mental health of individuals are usually put in the background where overall health is concerned. This is usually because mental health disorders are difficult to detect, diagnose and report.  A combination of biological, psychological and environmental factors have been shown to lead to mental health problems. In addition, periods of economic crises can lead to an increase in mental health problems and disorders in a population.

Recent research findings show that economic recessions can have negative effects on the mental health of a population depending on the context. For example the population of middle income and lower income countries are more susceptible to have their mental health negatively affected by a recession. The rates of alcohol use and suicides recorded usually show an upward trend during times of recession with men being at a greater risk of poor mental health in a recession.

Periods of economic crises are filled with macroeconomic uncertainties and downturns that affect individuals, families, businesses and governments  negatively. The poor (who do not have a strong economic security net) are usually affected the worst by these crises. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes poverty, unemployment and financial problems as factors that lead to mental health disorders. During recessions, the level of socio economic inequality worsens and this can extend to the health sector with the poor having even less access to good quality heath care.

In order to mitigate the effects of economic recessions, governments sometimes take on fiscal austerity measures that can reduce spending on healthcare. This leads to fewer people having access  to good health care and even less focus being placed on ensuring strong mental health.

Therefore, societies where human lives are valued should actively seek to promote the strong mental health of its citizens. The socio economic and financial security of its citizens should be a priority in the  decision making and policy implementation of governments. Programs that empower people and businesses to survive in times of crises should be put in place.

It is also important for every population to be properly educated on mental heath issues, how they may be detected and how to communicate effectively with the victims.

There are many factors that cause mental health problems but governments can play their parts by ensuring a good standard of living for the citizens of their countries and ensuring that citizens have a strong financial safety net to sustain them in times of economic downturns.

Sources

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/j.2051-5545.2012.tb00114.x/full

http://proj1.sinica.edu.tw/~ifpe/ifpe_bulletin/cooper.pdf

http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/mental-health-causes-mental-illness?page=2

http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/134999/e94837.pdf

Olamide Ayoade-Alabi

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