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Exploring the connection between mental health and economic health

A thought-provoking piece published online today in the Atlantic explores recent findings showing money alone can't buy mental health but improving the psychological well-being of people living in poverty can increase their economic health.

In the study (subscription required), researchers completed a systematic review of the effects of financial and mental health interventions undertaken in low and middle-income countries including Africa, Mexico, India and China and monitored changes in individuals and families' economic status and psychological health. The Atlantic reports:

The researchers saw more improvement when they looked at the impact of intervention programs aimed at improving the mental health of people living in poverty. The interventions they reviewed varied from administration of psychiatric drugs, to community-based rehabilitation programs, to individual or group psychotherapy, to residential drug treatment, to family education. They also looked at the impact of mental health help on the rate and duration of employment and on family finances.

Here they found financial situations improved as their mental health improved. There was a "clear trend in which mental health interventions are associated with improved economic outcomes in low income and middle income countries." The studies also showed that all of the interventions improved the mental health status of the target population, and the researchers noted that as the economic status improved, the clinical symptoms continued to improve, which created a "virtuous cycle of increasing returns."

Study authors say the findings underscore the importance of mental health services not only for public health but also for international economic development.

Previously: KQED health program explores mental health in California, Some 4.9 million Californians need help for mental health and Why are women more likely to need mental-health help?
Photo by Adrian Miles

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