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      The importance of financial recession for mental health among students: short- and long-term analyses from an ecosocial perspective

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          Background and aim: Referring to the ecosocial theory and utilising the ‘natural experiment’ setting provided by the global recession at the beginning of 1990s, the aim of our study was to analyse the short- and long-term associations between trade and mental health in young students followed until mid-adulthood.

          Method: The study was based on two prospective cohort studies, the older and the younger Northern Swedish Cohort which both consisted of all pupils in a middle-sized industrial town in Northern Sweden. At age 21, the younger cohort entered the labour market during the deep recession of the early 1990s, while the older cohort entered the labour market during the boom of the 1980s. Both cohorts were followed up with a high response rate in mid adulthood. For this study, all students were selected at age 21.

          Results: At age 21, those who studied during recession had more depressive and functional somatic symptoms than those who studied during boom. The cohort differences did not remain over age: by the follow-up in early middle age the differences between the cohorts were non-significant, most notably due to decreased depressive symptoms in the younger cohort and increase of functional somatic symptoms in the older cohort.

          Conclusions: The short-term mental health consequences of the business cycle seem to be more extensive than limited only to those who are unemployed, even though the possible long-term consequences seem to be more complex. Thus, the macrolevel had a great short-term impact on the individual level in relation to the microlevel setting of university/school. The chronosystem was also of major importance. Future research would benefit from taking the context into account.

          Significance for public health

          Although those who study at age 21 may be considered as a relatively healthy and advantaged population group in the long run, our results provide evidence for the significance of recession for mental health, not only among those suffering from concrete job loss but across all population groups. Students’ mental health should be given high priority during times of financial crisis. Mental health services for students should receive increased resources during times of recession. Even if young people may be reluctant to study after school during a financial crisis, it seems to be beneficial for their mental health in a long-term perspective. So, for them poorer mental health does not seem to be dangerous in the long run. Students surveys should pay special attention to understanding the relation between macroeconomic conditions and individual mental health symptoms.

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          Most cited references 25

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          Toward an experimental ecology of human development.

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            Unemployment and mental health scarring during the life course.

            There has been little research on the long-term relationship between unemployment experiences and mental health over the life course. This article investigates the relationship between youth unemployment as well as that of unemployment experiences during later periods and mental health at ages 16, 21, 30 and 42 years.
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              Cohort profile: the northern Swedish cohort.


                Author and article information

                J Public Health Res
                Journal of Public Health Research
                PAGEPress Publications, Pavia, Italy
                16 September 2019
                05 September 2019
                : 8
                : 2
                [1 ]Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet , Stockholm, Sweden
                [2 ]The Stress Research Institute, Stockholm University , Stockholm, Sweden
                [3 ]Faculty of Social Sciences, Tampere University , Tampere, Finland
                Author notes
                Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Box 210, SE-171 77 Stockholm, Sweden. anne.hammarstrom@ 123456su.se

                Contributions: AH, data collecting, manuscript writing and references search; PV, analysing; manuscript reviewing.

                Conflicts of interest: the authors declare no potential conflict of interests.

                ©Copyright: the Author(s), 2019

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/) which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Page count
                Figures: 3, Tables: 4, Equations: 0, References: 27, Pages: 6
                Funding: The work was supported by grants from The Swedish Research Council Formas (grant number 259–2012-37) and The Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare Forte (grant number 2011-0445).

                macroeconomics, students, mental health


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