Link Between Poverty and Mental Illness

While mental illness can affect anyone, there is new research that suggests that people with low incomes are more prone to it. Authorities hope that the study, which was published in the March issue of the Archives of Psychiatry, will be beneficial for dealing with public health issues.

We already know that poverty leads to a host of problems, including health problems and lack of medical care, and a lack of education and training. With the added threat of mental illness, we can see even more need to help these people make use of resources available to them.

Falling Into Poverty

Someone who drops from a higher income level to poverty will face mental illness in the form of anxiety, depression, and mood disorders. These individuals are most likely anxious and upset because of the worry associated with losing their income and social status. The overwhelming concern over how to pay the bills and make ends meet can lead to real mental illness disorders.

Long-Term Poverty

On the other hand, people who have been living in poverty for some time or grew up in it may suffer from mental illness for other reasons. Their depression and mood disorders may stem from a lack of optimism for the future. Furthermore, someone in poverty may not have access to, or knowledge about, medical help and therapy that would help diagnose and treat their mental illness.

It is possible that poverty causes mental illness. People living in long-term poverty may lack motivation or confidence to succeed in life. This can cause depression and suicidal thoughts. Lack of nutrition, lack of education, and a feeling of living day to day can all deplete someone’s energy and willpower.

Mental Illness Causing Poverty

It’s also possible that mental illness helps put someone into poverty. Someone who suffers from a mental disorder may not be able to hold down a job, or may not manage their finances well enough to stay out of poverty. In these cases, someone may also turn to drugs or alcohol to relieve their mental or physical pain, and may add substance addiction to the list of things keeping them down, financially.

There are programs and help in place for many of the people in poverty that suffer from mental illness. Many of them, however, don’t know about the resources. Researchers from the study hope their report helps change that:

“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,” the researchers concluded. “The findings also suggest that adults with reduction in income are at increased risk of mood and substance use disorders.” (1)

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