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The true cost of the economic crisis on psychological well-being: a review

Psychology Research and Behavior Management

Dove Medical Press

economic recession, mental health, suicide, social protection, austerity, review

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      Abstract

      The recent economic crisis has led to many negative consequences, not the least having to do with the mental health and well-being of the populations involved. Although some researchers say it is still too early to speak about a relationship between the economic crisis and a rise in mental health problems resulting in suicides, there is solid evidence for the existence of such a relationship. However, several moderating or mediating mechanisms can also play a role. The main reactions of most policy makers to the economic crisis are (severe) austerity measures. These measures seem to have, however, a detrimental effect on the mental health of the population: Just when people have the highest need for mental help, cost-cutting measures in the health care sector lead to a (substantial) drop in the supply of services for the prevention, early detection, and cure of mental health problems. Policy makers should support moderating mechanisms such as financial and psychological coping and acculturation and the role of primary health care workers in the early detection of suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, and suicide in times of economic recession. Several examples show that the countries best off regarding the mental health of their populations during the economic crisis are those countries with the strongest social safety net. Therefore, instead of cutting back on health care and social welfare measures, policy makers should in the future invest even more in social protection measures during economic crises.

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      The world report on violence and health.

      In 1996, the World Health Assembly declared violence a major public health issue. To follow up on this resolution, on Oct 3 this year, WHO released the first World Report on Violence and Health. The report analyses different types of violence including child abuse and neglect, youth violence, intimate partner violence, sexual violence, elder abuse, self-directed violence, and collective violence. For all these types of violence, the report explores the magnitude of the health and social effects, the risk and protective factors, and the types of prevention efforts that have been initiated. The launch of the report will be followed by a 1-year Global Campaign on Violence Prevention, focusing on implementation of the recommendations. This article summarises some of the main points of the world report.
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        Financial crisis, austerity, and health in Europe.

        The financial crisis in Europe has posed major threats and opportunities to health. We trace the origins of the economic crisis in Europe and the responses of governments, examine the effect on health systems, and review the effects of previous economic downturns on health to predict the likely consequences for the present. We then compare our predictions with available evidence for the effects of the crisis on health. Whereas immediate rises in suicides and falls in road traffic deaths were anticipated, other consequences, such as HIV outbreaks, were not, and are better understood as products of state retrenchment. Greece, Spain, and Portugal adopted strict fiscal austerity; their economies continue to recede and strain on their health-care systems is growing. Suicides and outbreaks of infectious diseases are becoming more common in these countries, and budget cuts have restricted access to health care. By contrast, Iceland rejected austerity through a popular vote, and the financial crisis seems to have had few or no discernible effects on health. Although there are many potentially confounding differences between countries, our analysis suggests that, although recessions pose risks to health, the interaction of fiscal austerity with economic shocks and weak social protection is what ultimately seems to escalate health and social crises in Europe. Policy decisions about how to respond to economic crises have pronounced and unintended effects on public health, yet public health voices have remained largely silent during the economic crisis. Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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          The public health effect of economic crises and alternative policy responses in Europe: an empirical analysis.

          There is widespread concern that the present economic crisis, particularly its effect on unemployment, will adversely affect population health. We investigated how economic changes have affected mortality rates over the past three decades and identified how governments might reduce adverse effects. We used multivariate regression, correcting for population ageing, past mortality and employment trends, and country-specific differences in health-care infrastructure, to examine associations between changes in employment and mortality, and how associations were modified by different types of government expenditure for 26 European Union (EU) countries between 1970 and 2007. We noted that every 1% increase in unemployment was associated with a 0.79% rise in suicides at ages younger than 65 years (95% CI 0.16-1.42; 60-550 potential excess deaths [mean 310] EU-wide), although the effect size was non-significant at all ages (0.49%, -0.04 to 1.02), and with a 0.79% rise in homicides (95% CI 0.06-1.52; 3-80 potential excess deaths [mean 40] EU-wide). By contrast, road-traffic deaths decreased by 1.39% (0.64-2.14; 290-980 potential fewer deaths [mean 630] EU-wide). A more than 3% increase in unemployment had a greater effect on suicides at ages younger than 65 years (4.45%, 95% CI 0.65-8.24; 250-3220 potential excess deaths [mean 1740] EU-wide) and deaths from alcohol abuse (28.0%, 12.30-43.70; 1550-5490 potential excess deaths [mean 3500] EU-wide). We noted no consistent evidence across the EU that all-cause mortality rates increased when unemployment rose, although populations varied substantially in how sensitive mortality was to economic crises, depending partly on differences in social protection. Every US$10 per person increased investment in active labour market programmes reduced the effect of unemployment on suicides by 0.038% (95% CI -0.004 to -0.071). Rises in unemployment are associated with significant short-term increases in premature deaths from intentional violence, while reducing traffic fatalities. Active labour market programmes that keep and reintegrate workers in jobs could mitigate some adverse health effects of economic downturns. Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, King's College, London, UK; and Wates Foundation (UK).
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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            Medical Sociology and Health Policy, University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium
            Author notes
            Correspondence: Guido Van Hal, University of Antwerp, Universiteitsplein 1, 2610 Antwerp, Belgium, Tel +32 3 265 25 20, Fax +32 3 265 28 75, Email guido.vanhal@ 123456uantwerp.be
            Journal
            Psychol Res Behav Manag
            Psychol Res Behav Manag
            Psychology Research and Behavior Management
            Psychology Research and Behavior Management
            Dove Medical Press
            1179-1578
            2015
            09 January 2015
            : 8
            : 17-25
            4295900 10.2147/PRBM.S44732 prbm-8-017
            © 2015 Van Hal. This work is published by Dove Medical Press Limited, and licensed under Creative Commons Attribution – Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License

            The full terms of the License are available at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed.

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