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Economic Recessions and Your Mental Health

It comes as no surprise that mental health problems are directly correlated to poverty, inequality in resources, and other socio-economical factors that tie to overall health. In this day and age, we are all pinching pennies and doing our best to stay in budget - with skyrocketing grocery and gas prices, rent going through the roof, and multiple medical crisis' on our doorstep, this is becoming increasingly challenging.

Last Wednesday, the Federal Reserve enacted a 0.75 percentage point interest rate increase - their second consecutive change. Benchmark rate is now between 2.25%-2.5%, which the Reserve hopes will act as a dampener to the country's inflation without causing a full-blown recession. While there is always a possibility that the US will avoid the recession all-together, it is still important to pay attention to the possibilities to know how to take care of yourself if they arise. In a recent study done by The Financial Times and Chicago University's Booth School of Business, close to 70% of questioned macroeconomists foresee a recession beginning some point next year.

To understand how a recession can affect our mental health, first we need to understand what a recession is. A "recession" is defined as a period of time (lasting longer than a few months) in which there is an overall general decline in economic activity. For a brief example, gas prices becoming more expensive leads us to staying at home more often. Staying at home more often, means that we are not spending money in the economy outside (at restaurants, stores, vendors, etc), which then directly effects the economic market and can drop us into a recession.

There are many ways that this can effect our day to day - beyond interest rates on mortgages/car loans. If businesses are not bolstered by their customers (due to inflation of everything else being so high), owners will not be able to afford to pay their employees or keep the lights on. Many people end up laid off, which then can cause them to lose cars/homes, their access to healthcare, and often times food.

These changes are not taken lightly, for obvious reasons! Imagine how you would feel - years into a career and suddenly laid off? Now you have to find a way to feed your kids, pay your bills, pay for gas - and often with the severance packages being minimal (because the companies still aren't making income, either), it can feel like you're drowning.

Researchers have linked economic recessions with a spike in mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and even suicide. Getting thrown into hard times (that can often be multiple traumatic events back to back) can bring on new mental health issues for those who have never experienced them before, and can compound the effects for those who already suffer.

Additionally, with the U.S Healthcare System being pretty much directly tied to employment, the potential of losing your job can take away your ability to access mental healthcare at the point when you probably need it most. Heightened mental health issues and lack of adequate support - especially in light of Covid-19 and Monkey Pox - poses an added light of concern.

Looking back at the Great Recession, 2007-2009, there was an increase in depression, anxiety, and problematic drug use found in people who had experienced only a single hardship - it was compounded for those experiencing multiple hardships.

According to a study released by researchers at University of Alberta, the loss of a job during the Great Recession increased mood disorder risk by 22%. They also found that the risk of a major depressive episode, tied to a home foreclosure, was 1.2 to 5.8 times higher odds of occurring.

Losing everything you have, feeling lost in this world, feeling like no one can help - unfortunately, feelings like this can be directly tied to committing suicide. According to a study by The Lancet, within the first three years of the Great Recession financial crisis in 2007, the suicide rate rose 4x as fast as it had in the 8 years prior to the recession.

The scale of the mental health effects differ, and depend on the severity and duration of a recession. A long-term recession can prolong the time a person spends unemployed, which can heighten mental health issues as they struggle with stress and anxiety, financial troubles, or even feelings of self-blame. If it's long enough, people can lose their homes, their safety, and even their lives.

It is important to pay attention to yourself, and your situation, and to do everything you can to take care of your mental health during these challenging global and economic times.


If you are struggling with thoughts of self-harm or suicide, or are worried for a friend or loved one, please know you are not alone. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is open 24/7, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Their number is 1-800-273-8255, and it is FREE to speak with a counselor.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provides a free National suicide crisis lifeline that also addresses mental health and substance use with trained crisis counselors. You can call, text, or chat with 988, and it is a free, 24/7 service.


Sources:

Zahn, Max. “Potential Recession Could Harm Mental Health: Experts.” ABC News, ABC News Network, 29 June 2022, https://abcnews.go.com/Health/potential-recession-harm-mental-health-experts/story?id=85593097.

Guerra, Olivia, and Ejemai Eboreime. “The Impact of Economic Recessions on Depression, Anxiety, and Trauma-Related Disorders and Illness Outcomes-A Scoping Review.” Behavioral Sciences (Basel, Switzerland), MDPI, 31 Aug. 2021, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8464685/.


“Number of Responses : 49 - Igmchicago.org.” Initiative on Global Markets - Chicago, https://www.igmchicago.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/RESULTS-2022-06-06-Survey-05.pdf.


Cox, Jeff. “Fed Hikes Interest Rates by 0.75 Percentage Point for Second Consecutive Time to Fight Inflation.” CNBC, CNBC, 27 July 2022, https://www.cnbc.com/2022/07/27/fed-decision-july-2022-.html.




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