Psychological Medicine

Review Article

Economic downturns and population mental health: research findings, gaps, challenges and priorities

K. Zivina1a2a3 c1, M. Paczkowskia4 and S. Galeaa4

a1 Department of Veterans Affairs, Health Services Research and Development (HSR&D) Center of Excellence, Serious Mental Illness Treatment Research and Evaluation Center (SMITREC), Ann Arbor, MI, USA

a2 Department of Psychiatry, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, MI, USA

a3 University of Michigan Depression Center, Ann Arbor, MI, USA

a4 Department of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA


Prior research suggests that the current global economic crisis may be negatively affecting population mental health. In that context, this paper has several goals: (1) to discuss theoretical and conceptual explanations for how and why economic downturns might negatively affect population mental health; (2) present an overview of the literature on the relationship between economic recessions and population mental health; (3) discuss the limitations of existing empirical work; and (4) highlight opportunities for improvements in both research and practice designed to mitigate any negative impact of economic declines on the mental health of populations. Research has consistently demonstrated that economic crises are negatively associated with population mental health. How economic downturns influence mental health should be considered in policies such as social protection programs that aim to promote recovery.

(Received February 25 2010)

(Revised July 28 2010)

(Accepted August 05 2010)

(Online publication September 14 2010)


c1 Address for correspondence: K. Zivin, Ph.D., Department of Psychiatry, University of Michigan, Rachel Upjohn Building, 4250 Plymouth Road, Box 5765, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA. (Email: