The relationship between mental health and income is complex and multifaceted. While it is well established that there is a strong correlation between low income and poor mental health, the nature of this relationship is not straightforward. This article will explore the various factors that contribute to the relationship between mental health and income and discuss how addressing these factors can help to improve mental health outcomes for those living on low incomes.
The relationship between mental health and income
At its most basic level, the relationship between mental health and income can be understood in terms of the social determinants of health. These are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age and how this profoundly impacts health outcomes. It is well established that people who live in poverty are more likely to experience a range of negative health outcomes, including poor mental health. This is partly because poverty is associated with a range of risk factors that can contribute to poor mental health, including stress, social isolation, and exposure to violence and trauma.
"Young people in the lowest income bracket are 4.5 times more likely to experience severe mental health problems than those in the highest"
However, the relationship between mental health and income is not just a matter of poverty and social determinants of health. There are also more complex factors that contribute to this relationship. For example, evidence suggests that income inequality is also a key factor in poor mental health outcomes. Research has shown that people living in more unequal societies are more likely to experience a range of negative health outcomes, including poor mental health. This is because income inequality can create a sense of social hierarchy and competition that can lead to stress, anxiety, and depression.
The role of work
Another factor contributing to the relationship between mental health and income is the role of work. Employment is a key source of income for most people, and it is also an important factor in mental health outcomes. Research has shown that unemployed people are more likely to experience poor mental health outcomes, including depression and anxiety. This is thought to be because unemployment can lead to feelings of social isolation, loss of identity and purpose, and financial insecurity.
At the same time, however, work can also be a source of stress and poor mental health outcomes. People working in low-paid, low-skilled jobs are likelier to experience poor mental health. This is partly because these jobs are often associated with high levels of stress and job insecurity, and because they can be physically demanding and emotionally draining. So, what can be done to address the relationship between mental health and income? Several different approaches can be taken, ranging from individual-level interventions to more systemic changes.
One approach is to provide mental health support and interventions to those who are living on low incomes. This could involve providing access to counselling or therapy services, as well as other forms of mental health support such as peer support groups or self-help resources. It is also important to address the social determinants of health that can contribute to poor mental health. This could involve initiatives to reduce poverty and income inequality and address other risk factors such as social isolation and exposure to violence and trauma.
"Enter a maximum of five things for which you are grateful and five accomplishments for that day in your list. Doing this activity in your mind is not enough; that’s why you must keep a physical record. Positive emotions and the ability to recall memories are two key advantages. Daily journaling encourages you to reflect on the positive events of the day, which keeps you upbeat"
Another approach is to focus on improving employment opportunities and conditions for those living on low incomes. This could involve initiatives to provide training and education and efforts to create more high-quality, well-paid jobs. It is also important to address the factors that can contribute to stress and poor mental health in the workplace, such as job insecurity, low pay, and high levels of demand and pressure.
Finally, there is a need for broader systemic changes to address the relationship between mental health and income. This could involve changes to social policy and workplace conditions, including the provision of basic income or other forms of income support. It could also involve changes to how we measure and value work.