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Research on the effect of the recession on mental health

We are seeing some very worrying mental health trends begin to emerge in response to the current economic situation. A recent article in the British Medical Journal  [1] published by researchers from the Universities of Liverpool, Cambridge and the London school of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has found that suicide rates in the last few years have bucked the trend of the previous 20 years and have started to rise. This study interestingly looked at 93 regions of the UK and found that the areas experiencing the highest levels of unemployment were the ones where suicide rates had increased the most. For every 10% increase in unemployment there was a 1.4% increase in suicide rates, which in the UK amounted to 1000 suicides. There was even a slight improvement in areas where employment rates briefly picked up, again suggesting a causal link. The same link between unemployment and suicide rates was also found in a recent study in Finland [2].

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Psychological damage and physical abuse linked to poverty

In the last couple of weeks we have seen new studies which have put more flesh on the bones of what we already know about the link between economic circumstances and mental health issues. One study  [1] by Judith Baer and colleagues from Rutgers University looked at 5,000 parents. Mothers who received free food or had a difficult time paying their bills were nearly 2.5 times more likely to have symptoms that would warrant a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder, compared with those who were in better financial situations. Interestingly what the researchers seem to have found, using a structural equation model, is that it is the economic circumstances that were the main trigger for psychological symptoms which are quite serious. Poverty and not knowing where the next meal is coming from, not surprisingly in itself is a major contributor to anxiety levels.

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