Year: 2016 Source: World Psychiatry.(2012).11(3):139Ð145.DOI: 10.1002/j.2051-5545.2012.tb00114.x SIEC No: 20160318

The financial turmoil that began in 2007 has developed into a full-blown economic crisis in many countries. This crisis is likely to have a negative impact on health, especially mental health. The full health impact of the crisis remains to be seen, but reports of negative mental health effects have already emerged. For instance, an increase in suicide attempts has been reported in Greece 1, and increases in the rate of suicides following the onset of the recession have been observed in Ireland 2 and England 3. However, the outlook does not have to be so bleak. A recent World Health Organization (WHO) publication points out that the association between economic crises and many negative mental health outcomes is avoidable 4. Societies can be more or less resistant to stressors, which can include both economic upturns as well as crises. The latter can destabilize public service budgets, with many consequences, including some on education, social welfare and health care systems. Policy choices can influence the impact of any economic recession on mental health outcomes. Unwise austerity measures in public services for children, families and young people may result in long-lasting and costly mental (and physical) health damages, and create an obstacle to economic recovery. Conversely, measures to ensure that social safety nets and supports are in place can increase the resilience of communities to economic shocks and mitigate the mental health impacts of fear of job loss, unemployment, loss of social status and the stress-related consequences of economic downturns 5. This is because mental health depends upon a variety of socioeconomic and environmental factors 6. High frequencies of common mental disorders and suicide are associated with poverty, poor education, material disadvantage, social fragmentation and deprivation, and unemployment 7,8,9. Recessions can widen income inequalities in societies, which in turn increases the risk of poor mental health 10. As people move down the socio-economic ladder due to loss of jobs and income, their health is at risk of being adversely affected 11. The number of households in high debt, repossession of houses and evictions is at risk of increasing as a result of the economic crisis. Protective factors will be weakened and risk factors will be strengthened.

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