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This research focusses on geographical variation in population mental health over the period 2007–2011 (during the onset of the economic recession). We report preliminary results from a project recently funded under the ESRC SDAI programme, seeking to explore variability in mental illness in Scotland during this period. Our methods combine information on individual lifecourse changes, as well as change over time in areas where the individuals are living. This research contributes to a growing field concerned with the relationships between population health and changes in wider determinants of health, operating over time for both individual people and places where they live.We are making innovative use of a variety of data sources including individual data from the Scottish Longitudinal Study (SLS), a large (5%) sample from the Scottish population; drawn from the population census made available under secure conditions at the Longitudinal Studies Centre Scotland, with help and supervision of SLS staff. (SLS is supported by the ESRC/JISC, the Scottish Funding Council, the Scientists Office and the Scottish Government.) We report on work which has linked these data to information on prescriptions likely to be used to treat mental illness (provided by the Electronic Data Research & Innovation Service (eDRIS) and information on area socio-economic conditions publicly available via Scottish National Government and NOMIS (Durham University) a service provided by the Office for National Statistics, ONS.We report preliminary results from a dataset for more than 1 20 000 people. Most of those reporting mental illness were taking antidepressants. There is a significant statistical association between risk of reporting mental illness in 2011 and employment trajectory of local authority of residence by 2011, (after controlling for individual risk factors and for neighbourhood deprivation in 2001, before the onset of the recession).Various personal, family and neighbourhood factors are associated with self-reported mental illness. Allowing for individual/family factors and local deprivation, people in local authorities where employment rates remained higher during the recession had lower risk of reporting mental illness, especially in the highlands and Islands of Scotland. Further research is being carried out to explore these relationships (eg controlling for migration and other possible area level determinants of mental health). The research underlines the importance of maintaining mental health services across Scotland during the recession to protect mental health and control inequality.