HEALTH – Poor mental health leads to unhealthy behaviours in low-income adults

SubstanceAbuse03Binge drinking, smoking, and illegal drug use may be used to cope with depression and anxiety among low-income adults, according to research by Dr. Jennifer Walsh and colleagues from the Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine at The Miriam Hospital in the US.

Health-compromising behaviours, including substance use, unprotected sex, poor diet and insufficient or excessive sleep, were common among patients who took part in the research.

Participants with very low incomes reported a higher number of health-compromising behaviours, as well as more symptoms of depression and anxiety and higher levels of stress, compared to those participants with higher incomes.

Although this research gives an indication of a link between mental health, unhealthy behaviours, and low income, we really don’t think it is ground-breaking news.

In Western societies, more and more people are concerned by the state of the economy and the effect this is and will have on their own stability and ability to survive.

During the 1980s, people were encourages to get into debt, to aspire to societies view that in order to be accepted one had to aspire to own things. Inevitable, many people who aspired fell into the debt trap – a never ending circle of borrowing and spending. A cultural cycle that continued for many until the recent economic problems experienced in most parts of the world.

The illusion people had been living came under threat, and many people struggle to cope with the change, and the financial burdens they have amassed.

For others on low-incomes, they have perhaps always been in a position where they had to be careful with their finances. Now they are finding that their meagre allotment of the world’s wealth hardly services their basic needs.

So it is no wonder that those who are finding it hard to cope in the modern world develop psychological conditions such as depression, anxiety, and become highly stressed.

Their way of life is under threat, and all they see are their leaders trying to squeeze the last drop of cash out of them, when they hardly have enough to live on.

Resorting to unhealthy behaviours may provide some escape or solace from the reality of having to cope and adjust, while others such as sleep disturbance and poor diet are symptoms of the worry about how the future will be. This escape is because we are living in an un-natural situation.

The use of drugs and alcohol in particular, only serve to make their health and financial situation worse, another cycle that can only end in destruction of the fabric of their lives unless proper help is made available as soon as possible.

We are seeing mental health services gradually disappearing through government cuts, and at the same time the number of referrals for depression and anxiety are increasing dramatically. The system can’t cope, and people are not getting the help they need soon enough.

Until society changes its focus from materialism to caring for people, there is little hope that those on low incomes will be considered to be valuable members of society.

If we lived in a genuinely caring society, those in difficulty would be a priority – not war and conflict, or ensuring those in power are protected.

We need a massive shift in what really matters, and a shift towards looking after each other, instead of the selfish society that has been created over the past twenty to thirty years.

Only then, will those who are resorting to escapism because of the effects of the world we live in be able to truly be part of society as it should be.

The paper on the original research can be seen on the AlphaGalileo website.
Follow @martynjsymons

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