Men have borne the brunt of worsening mental health across the population of England since the start of the economic downturn in 2008, according to research published in online journal BMJ Open. But unemployment and a falling household income do not seem to be the causes, prompting researchers to suggest it is the threat of losing their jobs that has affected men's mental health. The study was based on data taken from the national representative annual Health Survey for England for adults age 25 to 64, between 1991 and 2010, involving 107,000 people.
Respondents were asked about their employment status and educational attainment and those scoring four or more on the General Health Questionnaire-12, used to gauge levels of anxiety and depression, were deemed to have a high likelihood of poor mental health. The analysis showed rates of poor mental health were highest between 1991 and 1993, when the UK was in recession, after which they fell steadily until 2004, gradually rising until 2008, at which point they rose sharply. In 2008, when the global economic downturn began, the prevalence of mental ill health was 13.7 per cent, rising to 16.4 per cent in 2009, falling back to 15.5 per cent in 2010. Over most of the period under study, more women than men reported poor mental health. But during periods of recession the sharpest rises in the prevalence of mental ill health occurred among men. In the early 1990s, the prevalence of mental ill health among men rose from 12.3 per cent in 1991 to 14.5 per cent in 1992. A similar trend occurred in the 2008 economic downturn when the prevalence among men rose from 11.3 to 16.6 per cent among men in 2009; among women this rose from 16 to 16.2 per cent. But the study only examined changes in mental health up to 2010, and women may have been affected more severely after this time, particularly given subsequent changes in public sector employment, say the authors.