The effects of the 2007-9 financial crisis on mental health in England: a longitudinal analysis of non-suicide mental health trends
Research using area-level data has identified big increases in suicides in the UK and elsewhere through the financial crisis of 2007-09. Areas with larger increases in unemployment tended to have greater increases in suicide rates. The evidence base in this area has two particular weaknesses that this study aims to address. Firstly, this study uses individual-level data rather than aggregated area data, and secondly it examines non-suicide mental health trends rather than suicide rates.
A total of 12,816 individuals from the British Household Panel Survey in England were followed from 2000-2013. Data were missing for 2009. Trends in General Health Questionnaire score (for mental health) were described and associations between mental health scores, demographic features, employment status and equivalised household income were examined using fixed effects models. Lagged and advanced variables were used to explore associations through time.
Unemployment peaked in 2010 with greater increases down the income scale. This followed a deterioration in population-level mental health in 2008. Women and poorer people had significantly worse mental health throughout (p<0.000, beta 1.24, p<0.000, beta 0.129 respectively). Unemployment was significantly associated with worse mental health (p<0.000, beta 1.84). The association between mental health and income was weaker, with the most persistent effects for the time period 2008-2010 (p=0.000, beta -0.64). When findings were examined over time it appeared that worse mental health preceded job or income loss (p=0.028, beta 0.46; p=0.011, beta 0.23, respectively) but worse mental health did not follow being made unemployed, while mental health did significantly deteriorate following increases in income (p=0.006, beta -0.24).
Non-suicide mental health deteriorated during the 2007-2009 financial crisis. It appears that worse mental health predicted job loss and income loss, for example by conferring a weakness in the job market. There are a number of inferences to the research area, for example that the socioeconomically uneven increase in unemployment during recession could be attenuated with a strong social safetynet or in-work mental health support.