Recession, debt and mental health: challenges and solutions

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Abstract:

Background: During the economic downturn, the link between recession and health has featured in many countries' media, political, and medical debate. This paper focuses on the previously neglected relationship between personal debt and mental health.

Aims: Using the UK as a case study, this paper considers the public health challenges presented by debt to mental health. We then propose solutions identified in workshops held during the UK Government's Foresight Review of Mental Capital and Wellbeing.

Results: Within their respective sectors, health professionals should receive basic 'debt first aid' training, whilst all UK financial sector codes of practice should – as a minimum – recognise the existence of customers with mental health problems. Further longitudinal research is also needed to 'unpack' the relationship between debt and mental health. Across sectors, a lack of co-ordinated activity across health, money advice, and creditor organisations remains a weakness. A renewed emphasis on co-ordinated 'debt care pathways' and better communication between local health and advice services is needed.

Discussion: The relationship between debt and mental health presents a contemporary public health challenge. Solutions exist, but will require action and investment at a time of competition for funds.

Keywords: DEBT; MENTAL HEALTH; RECESSION

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: World Health Organization Collaborating Centre, Health Service and Population Research Department, Institute of Psychiatry, London, UK 2: College Research and Training Unit, Royal College of Psychiatrists, London, UK 3: Consumer Credit Counselling Service UK, Leeds, UK

Publication date: June 1, 2009

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