A major review by the British Medical Journal out today has uncovered a link between the 2008 recession and mental health.
What does the report say?
According to the BMJ, the recession that followed the financial crisis of 2008 led to rising unemployment, homelessness and poverty that are all important determinants of health.
Analysis of 41 studies, predominantly from Greece and Spain where the effects of the recession were most sharply felt, found that suicides increased during the financial crisis, especially for men. Other studies found that women’s mental health was also affected.
The BMJ also warns that some effects might not become evident until the children of the recession reach adulthood.
How did the recession affect health?
“Assessing the health effects of recessions can be challenging”, with an economic downturn often involving multiple processes, says the report.
Nevertheless, in the UK, an increase in house repossession from 2005, rising unemployment from 2008, falling wages from 2009 and an average increase in household debt were all cited as causes behind a spike “in adverse health outcomes”.
Who is to blame and what can be done?
While governments might not be able to prevent recessions, “their response is a matter of political choice, which has important consequences for health”, says the report.
“It is critical to distinguish between the health effects of recessions and the effect of different policy responses to recession,”says the BMJ.
The implementation of austerity measures in England in 2011, “which disproportionately affected more disadvantaged groups”, coincided with a further rise in suicides with “several studies indicating that adequate welfare policies can mitigate some of the harmful effects of recessions”, it concludes.