Men bearing brunt of worsening mental health in England since start of 2008 recession

October 17, 2012

Men have borne the brunt of worsening mental health across the population of England since the start of the economic downturn in 2008, reveals research published in the online journal BMJ Open.

But unemployment and a falling household income don't seem to be the culprits, prompting the authors to suggest that it is the threat of losing their jobs that has affected men's mental health.

They base their findings on data taken from the national representative annual for England for adults aged 25 to 64, between 1991 and 2010.

Response rates during this period varied from 85 per cent in 1991 to 64 per cent in 2008, and included just short of 107,000 people.

Respondents were asked about their employment status and , and those scoring 4 or more on the Questionnaire-12, which is used to gauge levels of , were deemed to have a high likelihood of .

The analysis showed that rates of poor mental health were highest between 1991 and 1993, when the UK was in recession, after which they fell steadily until 2004, when they started a gradual rise until 2008, at which point they rose sharply.

In 2008, when the global began, the prevalence of was 13.7 per cent, rising to 16.4 per cent in 2009, falling back to 15.5 per cent in 2010.

Over most of the period under study, more women than men reported poor mental health. But during periods of recession the sharpest rises in the prevalence of mental ill health occurred among men.

In the early 1990s, the prevalence of mental ill health among men rose from 12.3 per cent in 1991 to 14.5 per cent in 1992.

A similar trend occurred in the 2008 economic downturn when the prevalence among men rose from 11.3 to 16.6 per cent among men in 2009; among women this rose from 16 to 16.2 per cent.

Factoring in age, indicated that the prevalence of poor mental health among men increased by 5.1 per cent in 2009 and by 3 per cent in 2010. There were no such significant increases among women.

But the study only examined changes in mental health up to 2010, and women may have been affected more severely after this time, particularly given subsequent changes in public sector employment, say the authors.

The prevalence of mental ill health, however, was not confined to those out of work; and taking account of employment status and educational attainment made no difference to the figures.

"The finding that mental health across the general population has deteriorated following the recession's onset, and that this association does not appear to be limited to those out of employment nor those whose has declined, has important implications," say the authors.

They suggest that the reason for the gender differences in the impact of recession could be that men's mental health is more vulnerable to the fear of job loss.

"One potential explanation for our results would be that job insecurity during the current is responsible for the deterioration in mental health, with men's psychological health remaining more affected by economic fluctuations despite greater female labour market participation," they conclude.

Explore further: Resilience amongst the long-term ill

More information: Trends in population mental health before and after the 2008 recession: a repeat cross-sectional analysis of the 1991-2010 Health Surveys of England, doi 10.1136/bmjopen-2012-001790

Related Stories

Resilience amongst the long-term ill

July 11, 2011
People who have a long term debilitating physical illness demonstrate mental resilience according to Understanding Society, the world's largest longitudinal household study. The first findings reveal that people diagnosed ...

Study links mental health problems to poor prognosis in male cancer patients

May 24, 2012
Men suffering from psychiatric problems when diagnosed with cancer are more likely to die from the disease, according to a new study part-funded by the Wellcome Trust. The findings also reveal that those with psychiatric ...

Reduction in mental health discrimination

May 3, 2012
Findings from a new study led by King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry (IoP) show improvements in behaviour towards people with mental health problems in England, during the first year of the national ...

Reports of mental health disability increase in US

September 23, 2011
The prevalence of self-reported mental health disabilities increased in the U.S. among non-elderly adults during the last decade, according to a study by Ramin Mojtabai, MD, PhD, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public ...

Recommended for you

To reduce postoperative pain, consider sleep—and caffeine

August 18, 2017
Sleep is essential for good mental and physical health, and chronic insufficient sleep increases the risk for several chronic health problems.

Despite benefits, half of parents against later school start times

August 18, 2017
Leading pediatrics and sleep associations agree: Teens shouldn't start school so early.

Doctors exploring how to prescribe income security

August 18, 2017
Physicians at St. Michael's Hospital are studying how full-time income support workers hired by health-care clinics can help vulnerable patients or those living in poverty improve their finances and their health.

Schoolchildren who use e-cigarettes are more likely to try tobacco

August 17, 2017
Vaping - or the use of e-cigarettes - is widely accepted as a safer option for people who are already smoking.

Federal snack program does not yield expected impacts, researchers find

August 17, 2017
A well-intentioned government regulation designed to offer healthier options in school vending machines has failed to instill better snacking habits in a sample of schools in Appalachian Virginia, according to a study by ...

In a nutshell: Walnuts activate brain region involved in appetite control

August 17, 2017
Packed with nutrients linked to better health, walnuts are also thought to discourage overeating by promoting feelings of fullness. Now, in a new brain imaging study, researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.