Depressed during the depression: has the economic crisis affected mental health inequalities in Europe? Findings from the European Social Survey (2014) special module on the determinants of health

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Abstract

Background:

Economic crises constitute a shock to societies with potentially harmful effects to the mental health status of the population, including depressive symptoms, and existing health inequalities.

Methods:

With recent data from the European Social Survey (2006–14), this study investigates how the economic recession in Europe starting in 2007 has affected health inequalities in 21 European nations. Depressive feelings were measured with the CES-D eight-item depression scale. We tested for measurement invariance across different socio-economic groups.

Results:

Overall, depressive feelings have decreased between 2006 and 2014 except for Cyprus and Spain. Inequalities between persons whose household income depends mainly on public benefits and those who do not have decreased, while the development of depressive feelings was less favorable among the precariously employed and the inactive than among the persons employed with an unlimited work contract. There are no robust effects of the crisis measure on health inequalities.

Conclusion:

Negative implications for mental health (in terms of depressive feelings) have been limited to some of the most strongly affected countries, while in the majority of Europe persons have felt less depressed over the course of the recession. Health inequalities have persisted in most countries during this time with little influence of the recession. Particular attention should be paid to the mental health of the inactive and the precariously employed.

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