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The dizzying links between income and mental health and what you can do about it

The dizzying links between income and mental health and what you can do about it
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New research by the Mental Health Foundation shows there’s a strong relationship between income and mental health. In fact, lower socioeconomic status is a common factor among people experiencing mental health issues.

Unfortunately, income inequality is a major problem in the UK. In fact, the UK ranks in the top 10 countries in the world for income inequality, according to the Gini coefficient or Gini scale. For a lot of Brits, this means a lot of financial insecurity that could lead to emotional and mental issues along the way.

Links between income and mental health

According to the Mental Health Foundation, the UK’s poorest households are up to three times more likely to deal with mental health problems. This is especially true in the lowest 20% income bracket.

Perhaps most surprising is that these issues seem to affect both children and adults in the household in equal measure. Children and adolescents in low-income households are 4.5 times more likely to experience mental health issues than those growing up in a more stable financial environment.

Employment status is also an important link between income and mental health. People who are unemployed are more likely to suffer from mental health issues. That said, not all work is the same when it comes to staying healthy. Underpaid, insecure or unsafe work also poses risks to your mental health.

How income influences depression

The relationship between income and mental health has been shown in many studies. For example, research published in JAMA Psychiatry shows that people with lower incomes are at an increased risk of suffering from stress, anxiety and substance use disorders.

Low income is also associated with a higher incidence of suicide attempts.

Experts believe that food and housing insecurity are major stressors. This could explain the tight relationship between income and mental health, especially when additional stresses also come into play. 

Improving mental health at home

No matter what your financial situation is right now, there are things you can do to improve your mental wellbeing. An important one, especially during the pandemic, is to connect with other people. You might not be able to spend time with friends or family in person right now, but you can still reach out to them via video-chat apps.

Another thing you can do to improve your mental health is to be physically active. Exercise can improve your mood, reduce stress and help you focus on something positive.

The NHS offers a great list of ways you can get fit for free. These will not put a burden on your budget and you can usually follow them anywhere and at any time.

You can also try downloading some mental health apps or spend some time learning new skills. Search for free classes or courses to help boost your self-esteem and improve your knowledge. The right knowledge could even help you get a better job later on.

Seeking help if things get overwhelming

If you feel you can’t handle the stress on your own, you can always try joining a support group or find a counsellor to talk to. Contact your GP if you don’t know where to start or need a referral.

If issues with your income are affecting your mental health, you can talk to Citizens Advice for help dealing with debt or financial issues.

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