News: Recession causes surge in mental health problems
Recession causes surge in mental health problems
Study reveals sharp rise in people suffering stress, anxiety and depression due to redundancies and job insecurityThe Guardian, Thursday 1 April 2010Among people who have lost their jobs in the last year, 71% have suffered symptoms of depression. Photograph: Henryk T Kaiser/Rex
The number of people suffering stress, anxiety and depression because of redundancies, job insecurity and pay cuts owing to the recession is soaring, a study published today reveals.
Worries about the effects of the downturn have produced a sharp rise in people experiencing symptoms of common mental health conditions, according to the report, by academics from Roehampton University and the children's charity Elizabeth Finn Care.
The incidence of depression has jumped by between four and five-fold as unemployment, cuts in hours and concern about security of tenure have become common, the report found. Among people who have lost their jobs in the last year, 71% have suffered symptoms of depression, 55% said the same about stress and 52% experienced symptoms of anxiety.
Those ranked as of middle socio-economic status were more likely to experience depression (59.8%) than those from lower (44.9%) or higher groups (46.7%).
Among those who had experienced a drop in salary or cut in their hours or days, 51% said they had experienced symptoms of depression, 48% said the same for anxiety and 45% experienced stress symptoms.
Those aged 18-30 were more likely to suffer from depressive symptoms than any other age group.
Dr Joerg Huber, principal lecturer at Roehampton University, said: "What makes our findings worrying is the high percentage of people reporting symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress. This applies even more to those who have lost their job or experienced a major loss of income."
Left untreated, depression could turn into "a vicious cycle of related disability and an inability to work", he added.
Mental health problems cost the UK about £110bn a year, according to a recent report by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the London School of Economics and the NHS Confederation's mental health network. They found that demand for mental health treatment had increased during 2009 because of rising levels of debt, home repossessions, unemployment and threat of redundancy.
Prof Steve Field, chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said the increase in mental health problems identified by the researchers reflected the recent experience of family doctors. "GPs across the country have been seeing a definite increase in the last year in the number of patients coming to see them with mental health and physical issues. These appeared to be related to either losing their job or fearing their job and livelihood are threatened," said Field.
He added: "There's been an increase in people coming to see me with backache and tiredness, as a way of discussing the fact that they're actually stressed and depressed, because their job is under threat or they are no longer earning enough to feed their family."
Robert Karl Stonjek