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Men’s mental health hit by economic downturn

18 October 2012

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Job insecurity has led to men “bearing the brunt” of worsening mental health since the start of the recession in 2008.

A study published in BMJ Open found unemployment and falling household incomes are not to blame for the adverse affect on men’s mental health during the economic downturn.

Data of 107,000 people aged 25- 64 years old between 1991 and 2010 taken from the Health Survey for England found the overall prevalence of mental ill health was 13.7% in 2008, rising to 16.4% in 2009 and falling to 15.5% in 2010.

While more women than men reported poor mental health during the study period, the sharpest rises in of mental ill health during recessions occurred among men – from 12.3% to 14.5% in the early 1990s and 11.3% to 16.6% in the year 2008-09.

Researchers claimed the prevalence of mental ill health was “not confined” to those out of work and employment status and educational attainment made no difference to the figures.

“The finding that mental health across the general population has deteriorated following the recession’s onset, and that this association does not appear to be limited to those out of employment nor those whose household income has declined, has important implications,” said the researchers.

“One potential explanation for our results would be that job insecurity during the current recession is responsible for the deterioration in mental health, with men’s psychological health remaining more affected by economic fluctuations despite greater female labour market participation.”

However, the researchers also pointed out women may be more “severely affected” post 2010 by the recession, “particularly given subsequent changes in public sector employment”.