While a mental health problem can strike at any time and in any demographic, some suggest mental health and poverty are linked.
The World Health Organization states the best evidence between poverty and mental illness is that “poverty is cyclical, meaning being poor can increase the risk of a mental disorder while having a mental order can increase the likelihood of descending into poverty.”
The WHO reports it has conducted studies over the past two years about the two and that typical mental disorders are two times as often among the poor versus wealthier individuals.
Other factors range from lack of education, poor housing, as well as not being employed.
In general, people living in poverty do not have the financial resources for basic living needs, have less education, and employment opportunities, and are unable to access quality healthcare.
Among the many findings linking mental issues and poverty, the WHO’s studies also found depression is 1.5 to 2 times more common among the lower-income group of the population. Additionally, those who face hunger or debt typically suffer from common mental orders.
Individuals who are poor and residing in crowded housing are subject to mental issues because it is a stressful situation.
Education or lack of it plays a factor as the highest estimated prevalence among mental disorders is typically found among people with the lowest levels of education and/or those who are unemployed.
Being unemployed and not working can push people deeper into debt and the inability to pay for any healthcare treatment they might need. They may not be able to find employment because of their mental illness. Additionally, they might be shut out or discriminated against and not offered work or lose a job they have because of mental illness.
Severe Mental Illness
People suffering from schizophrenia and/or a severe mental illness and being poor have also been linked.
The WHO reports people with the lowest socioeconomic status also known as SES have eight times more risk of developing schizophrenia than those of the highest SES.
People with schizophrenia compared to people without any mental order are four times more likely to be unemployed or partly employed.
Individuals with schizophrenia are one-third more likely not to have graduated from high school and three times more likely to be divorced.
According to the National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), an estimated 9.8 million adults aged 18 or older in the U.S. had a serious mental illness (SMI), including 2.5 million adults living below the poverty line.
“SMI is defined in NSDUH as adults who in the past year have had a diagnosable mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder (excluding developmental and substance use disorders) of sufficient duration to meet diagnostic criteria and has resulted in serious functional impairment substantially interferes with major life activities,” according to the agency.
The survey added adults aged 26 or older living below the poverty line were more likely to experience SMI than those living at and above the poverty line (7.5 percent vs. 4.1 and 3.1 percent, respectively).
On the flip side, the percentage of young adults with SMI was similar in each of the levels of poverty.
Complicated But There Is Help
Overall, the survey remarks the correlation between mental illness and poverty can be complicated as poverty itself may exacerbate mental illness.
Being at the poverty level could bring on mental illness and experiencing mental illness may also increase the chances of living below the poverty line.
If you need or know someone who suffers from mental illness and needs help the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provides resources for those with mental illness. For information on accessing treatment, please visit here.