March 6, 2005

Low Socioeconomic Status Is a Risk Factor for Mental Illness, According to a Statewide Examination of Psychiatric Hospitalizations

WASHINGTON - Does having a low socioeconomic status (SES) lead to depression or does depression lead a person into poverty? According to a study that examined a database of 34,000 patients with two or more psychiatric hospitalizations in Massachusetts during 1994-2000, unemployment, poverty and housing unaffordability were correlated with a risk of mental illness. This finding is reported on in the current issue of the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, published by the American Psychological Association (APA).

"The poorer one's socioeconomic conditions are, the higher one's risk is for mental disability and psychiatric hospitalization," said author Christopher G. Hudson, Ph.D., of Salem State College. This was found regardless of what economic hardship or type of mental illness the person suffered.

SES was assessed on the basis of community income, education and occupational status. The study considered economic stress as one of several possible explanations for the correlation between SES and mental illness, and this was determined by how much the local income income was below the federal poverty level, the rate of unemployment, and an index of rental housing unaffordability.

This study provides strong evidence that SES impacts the development of mental illness directly, as well as indirectly through its association with adverse economic stressful conditions among lower income groups, said Dr. Hudson. Furthermore, "the study highlights the need for the continued development of preventive and early intervention strategies that pay particular attention to the devastating impacts of unemployment, economic displacement, and housing dislocation, including homelessness."

Article: "Socioeconomic Status and Mental Illness: Tests of the Social Causation and Selection Hypotheses, "Christopher G. Hudson, Ph.D., Salem State College; American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, Vol. 75, No. 1.

Reporters: Christopher G. Hudson, PhD can be reached by phone at work (978) 542-6609 or by Email.

The American Psychological Association (APA), in Washington, DC, is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world's largest association of psychologists. APA's membership includes more than 150,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 53 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting health, education and human welfare.