Mental health in economic crises
Following the economic crisis that began in 2007, the WHO European Region has experienced changes – a rise in unemployment, an increasing number of people living in poverty, and cuts in public spending – that are detrimental to mental health.
Substantial research has revealed that people, particularly men, who experience unemployment, impoverishment and family disruptions have a significantly greater risk of mental health problems, such as depression, alcohol use disorders and suicide than their unaffected counterparts.
Not only do crises have a negative effect on health, including mental health, but poor mental health also has a knock-on effect on economic development. The economic consequences of mental health problems –mainly in the form of lost productivity – are estimated to average 3–4% of gross national product in European Union countries.
Factors affecting people’s mental health
|Protective factors||Risk Factors|
|Social capital and welfare protection||Poverty, poor education, deprivation, high debt|
|Healthy prenatal and childhood environment||
Poor prenatal nutrition, abuse, harsh upbringing, poor relationship with parents, intergenerational
|Healthy workplace and living||Unemployment, job insecurity, job stress|
|Healthy lifestyles||Alcohol and/or drug use|
Further research suggests that countries that buffer the effects of economic crises, through a strong social safety net, protect their populations from the risks to their mental health and enable swifter economic recovery. These social protection initiatives include:
- active labour market programmes, helping people retain jobs and quickly regain employment;
- family support measures;
- restrictions on alcohol availability;
- debt relief programmes; and
- access to mental health services.
A new publication, “Impact of economic crises on mental health”, explains the intersectoral action that governments can take to mitigate the effects of economic crises on mental health.