Financial stress linked to mental health problems

Financial stress – caused by difficulty in affording essentials such as housing and fuel costs – is linked to worsening mental health among those affected, according to a new study of residents of deprived areas in Glasgow, Scotland.

The evidence presented comes from the GoWell programme, a long-term study of the progress of regeneration across deprived communities, and its effects upon health and well-being.

Key findings

  • Affordability problems generally eased for households over the period of study: but some groups identified as being at risk from the effects of the economic downturn and austerity measures faced particularly high affordability problems, or a worsening of affordability difficulties.
  • Where there were increased affordability difficulties, this was associated with a worsening of mental health for the householder. This was true for all four measures of mental health, and was found in the analysis of both the cross-sectional and longitudinal samples.
  • There were also indications of a lowering of the threshold of multiple affordability difficulties at which mental health declined; and that, over a longer time period, the drop in mental health associated with worsening affordability difficulties was greater.
  • Although the direction of causality is not certain, the evidence strongly indicates that financial stress does contribute to worsening mental health – even if the reverse is also true, namely that those with worse mental health are more likely to get into financial difficulties.
  • Although some effects of the austerity measures introduced by the coalition government may already have been felt within communities, the main effects may only become apparent in coming years. The researchers will return to examine these issues again after the fourth survey wave in 2015.

Source: Angela Curl and Ade Kearns, Financial Stress and Mental Wellbeing in an Age of Austerity: Evidence from the GoWell Surveys 2006-2011, GoWell
LinksReport | GoWell press release

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Publication date: 
Oct 15 2013