Intersections Between Mental Health And The Economy

By: Raina Koshal

 

It is likely that you know someone struggling with a mental health disorder. Walter Payton College Prep student Maya Jha says “as I am growing up, mental health struggles are definitely becoming a more prevalent issue throughout my friends”. Additionally, Lillian Hennessy, a student from Jones College Prep, says that “more than half” of her friends struggle with mental health disorders. This doesn’t come as a surprise as suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 10-34 (NAMI, 2020). In fact, since 1999 the overall suicide rate in the U.S. has increased by 35% (NAMI, 2020). But mental health is much more than suicide, mental health disorders refer to a very broad amount of mental health conditions that can affect one's mood, thinking, and behavior.


According to Neil Jordan, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern Feinberg school of medicine, “There is a lot of evidence that how things go in the job market are associated with people's mental health”. The US’s productivity-centered economy can be a big stressor and contributor to mental health issues within its population. Specifically, financial hardships have proven to have a direct relationship with increased mental health disorders. For example, research findings published in Clinical Psychological Science show that those who experienced a specific type of recession linked impact- financial impacts (e.g., missed mortgage or credit card payments, declared bankruptcy)- had an increased likelihood of having symptoms of depression, generalized anxiety, panic, or problems with drug use. Recession-linked impacts refer to influences from the great recession, which was one of the biggest economic declines in US history.


The relationship between mental health issues and their negative economic impacts can may be seen as a catch-22 situation. This refers to when an individual cannot escape because of contradictory rules or limitations; the only way out is denied by a situation inherent in the issue. Here, economic issues greaten the prevalence of mental health disorders, but an increase in mental health disorders will result in further economic declines. Going back to the great recession example, many believe that the reason the recession had such lasting impacts and took two years to overcome, finding itself at the longest recession since World War II, was because its adverse effects on individuals mental health “compounded and prolonged its economic costs” (Clinical Psychological Science). Research done by Mclean Hospital found that mental health disorders lead to a “35% reduction in productivity, contributing to a loss to the U.S. economy of $210.5 billion a year”.


During the Covid 19 pandemic, the actions necessary to control the virus as well as the pandemics effects caused many organizations to lose business and brought with it a surge of unemployment. The onset of Covid 19 resulted in many economic declines and mental health struggles of its own. Many mental health disorders can be treated effectively with quality health care, hence some believe the only way out of this catch-22 paradox and to prevent another recession situation is more government-funded mental health support. The idea being that it is a substantial financial investment that could stimulate quicker economic recovery, allowing for the easing of individual burdens in a time when treatment expenses are too costly. Government spendings on mental health issues have increased by 52% since 2009, as of 2019 the percentage of health budget spent on mental health was only about 5.5% (Open Minds Market Intelligence Report, 2021).