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Rise in mental illness due to debt

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Depression and mental illness will increase as millions struggle to cope with debts and money problems during the economic downturn, according to a study.

People who owe money are more likely to suffer from psychological problems, the study from the Nottingham School of Economics found.

Researchers examined information from the Families and Children Survey, which questions about 8,000 people a year on issues including their financial situation and health.

In 2005, 13% of respondents who reported debt problems and 17% of those reporting financial stress also reported mental health and psychological concerns.

At the same time, less than 3% of those who did not report debt or financial stress said they were suffering from psychological problems.

Professor Richard Disney, who carried out the study with Dr Sarah Bridges, said loans such as mortgages were not associated with stress unless payments were overdue.

But money owed to relatives, friends and money-lenders was likely to cause stress whether payments were overdue or not.

He said: “The credit crunch has undoubtedly increased the risk of debt problems, as figures on mortgage arrears and repossessions show.

“In such circumstances it’s no surprise that the incidence of mental health problems and psychological stress has also increased.

“We have figures that show more and more people have been seeking advice from counselling agencies and from friends and relatives.”

A recent report by mental health charity Mind has also shown the risk of unemployment and hardship has led to a sharp rise in depressive illness.

The study is published in the current edition of the Journal of Health Economics.

Click here to see the article in the Journal of Health Economics

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