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Debt, income and mental disorder in the general population

JANUARY 22, 2008

Dr Rachel Jenkins is the lead author on a paper published this month by the journal Psychological Medicine entitled: Debt, income and mental disorder in the general population. 

The association between poor mental health and poverty is well known but its mechanism is not fully understood.  Among the factors associated with poverty is debt, and the consequences of debt and there is growing awareness of the associations between debt and health.    This study is the first to look at income, debt and mental disorder using directly collected information and a standardised clinical interview in a nationally representative British sample.  It tests the hypothesis that the relationship between low income and specific categories of mental disorder is mediated by debt and its attendant financial hardship.

Researchers interviewed a national cross section of private households in England, Scotland and Wales which assessed 8580 participants aged 16-74 living in general households.  Psychosis, neurosis, alcohol abuse and drug abuse were identified by Clinical Interview Schedule-Revised, SCAN, AUDIT and other measures.  Detailed questions were asked about income, debt and financial hardship.  It was concluded that both low income and debt were associated with mental illness, but the effect of income appears to be mediated largely by debt.

The paper can be accessed on line from the journal's webpages at: and search within the journal of Psychological Medicine January 2008.

Authors were: Rachel Jenkins, Dinesh Bhugra, Paul Bebbington, Traolach Brugha, Mike Farrell, Jeremy Coid, Tom Fryers, Scott Weich, Nicola Singleton and Howard Meltzer.
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