Latimer: Study finds depression prevalent during a recession

Many questions came out of the recent economic slow down.

Many questions came out of the recent economic slow down.

While a lot of attention was paid to corporate bail-outs, the state of real estate, economic restructuring and political posturing on all sides, millions of people quietly went about their business—some losing jobs and others worrying about what the next months would bring.

How has this recession affected our collective psyche?

Has there been any measurable change in the mood of the masses?

These questions were posed and analyzed in a recent study published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.

In this study, researchers surveyed a sample of the Alberta working population at different times between January 2008 and October 2009 to estimate the prevalence of depression and anxiety disorders over this time period, and to determine whether the economic crisis had any effect on people’s mental health.

After conducting their analysis on more than 3,500 people, researchers concluded there appeared to be an increase in the prevalence of depression during the recession.

Particularly among men and those who were married or in common-law relationships, the incidence of depression increased with time.

According to Canadian statistics, the annual rate of depressive episodes in our country is just under five per cent.

In this study, the starting rate at the 2008 screening was just above five per cent so fairly consistent with the expected norm.

A year later the rate was 6 1/2 per cent which showed a significant increase.

Anxiety disorders were also examined and there was no significant increase over time in the prevalence of these conditions.

This was a cross-sectional study with some limitations and although there appeared to be a significant increase in the incidence of depression during the course of the study, no certain causal relationship can be made between the economic crisis and these increased numbers.

Since the incidence increased particularly among married men or those living in common-law relationships, and the increase could not be explained by the effects of other demographic or socio-economic factors, researchers believe it is likely that the economic slowdown played a role.

Increased stress at work and concern over job security, finances and ability to support a family could lead to a higher likelihood of experiencing depression.

Prevalence of depression increased about one per cent every six months during the course of this study and researchers stated the necessity for policy-makers and health professionals to be prepared for an increased number of people using health services.

Longer term data is needed in order to provide further evidence of a causal relationship between economic crisis and risk of depression.

It will be interesting to see if these findings are borne out over time.

Paul Latimer is a psychiatrist and president of Okanagan Clinical Trials.



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