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What has economics got to do with it? The impact of socioeconomic factors on mental health and the case for collective action

Macintyre, Anna and Ferris, Daniel and Gonçalves, Briana and Quinn, Neil (2018) What has economics got to do with it? The impact of socioeconomic factors on mental health and the case for collective action. Palgrave Communications, 4. ISSN 2055-1045

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    A clear link exists between social and economic inequality and poor mental health. There is a social gradient in mental health, and higher levels of income inequality are linked to higher prevalence of mental illness. Despite this, in the late 20th and early 21st century, psychiatric and psychological perspectives have dominated mental health research and policy, obscuring root socioeconomic contributors. Drawing on contemporary research on the social determinants of mental health, with particular reference to Europe and the U.S., this paper argues that a sharper focus on socioeconomic factors is required in research and policy to address inequalities in mental health. Current attempts to move this direction include: evaluation of the impact of economic policies on mental health, community-based partnerships, increased professional awareness and advocacy on socioeconomic factors. This necessitates greater understanding of the barriers to such actions. This paper argues that advancing ‘upstream’ approaches to population mental health requires an interdisciplinary research vision that supports greater understanding of the role of socioeconomic factors. It also demands collective cross-sectoral action through changes in social and economic policy, as well as economic frameworks that move beyond an exclusive focus on economic growth to embrace collective and societal wellbeing.