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Poverty, Mental Illness and Suicide Linked

Researchers have documented a connection between low socioeconomic status (low SES, or those who are poor) and the likelihood of also being diagnosed with a mental illness or having attempted suicide.

The researchers also found that a decrease in a person’s income level is also associated with a higher risk for anxiety and mood disorders, as well as a higher rate of substance use.

Previous research into the relationship between these factors has not resulted in a clear answer, according to the researchers. “Some studies have found that lower income is associated with mental illness, while other studies have not found this relationship,” noted author Jitender Sareen, M.D., of the University of Manitoba.

To study the relationship between income, suicide attempts and mental disorders, the researchers analyzed data from the U.S. National Epidemiologic Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions, the largest longitudinal, population-based mental health survey ever conducted.

A total of 34,653 U.S. adults, age 20 years and older, were interviewed twice, three years apart.

“Participants with household income of less than $20,000 per year were at increased risk of incident mood disorders during the three-year follow-up period in comparison with those with income of $70,000 or more per year,” the authors reported.

“A decrease in household income during the two time points was also associated with an increased risk of incident mood, anxiety, or substance use disorders in comparison with respondents with no change in income,” they write.

An increase in income during the follow-up period was not associated with any increase or decrease in the risk of developing mental disorders.

The authors believe their study findings have important public health implications.

“Most important, the findings suggest that income below $20,000 per year is associated with substantial psychopathologic characteristics and that there is a need for targeted interventions to treat and prevent mental illness in this low-income sector of the population,” they said.

“The findings also suggest that adults with reduction in income are at increased risk of mood and substance use disorders.”

The new study appears in the April issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.

Source: Archives of General Psychiatry

Poverty, Mental Illness and Suicide Linked

Psych Central News Editor

APA Reference
News Editor, P. (2018). Poverty, Mental Illness and Suicide Linked. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 19, 2019, from
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Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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