What the Recession Was Good for: Our Mental Health

Researchers say it could be result of fewer doc visits or more leisure time
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted May 14, 2015 2:39 PM CDT
What the Recession Was Good for: Our Mental Health
In this 2009 photo, job seekers join a line of hundreds of people at a job fair in New York.   (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

Americans appear to have experienced better mental health during the recent recession than during the years leading up to it. So say researchers out of the University of Maryland who crunched data on depression, anxiety, and psychological disorders in a study published this week in PLoS ONE. The reason remains unclear, and the researchers say more investigation is needed in a post at EurekaAlert. On the one hand, the drop in diagnoses could be because people who are out of work have less access to mental health services. On the other hand, it could be because they're spending more time with family or on leisure activities and are happier as a result.

The study used data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey of 81,313 adults between 2005 and 2011. Both men and women saw better mental health and had lower odds of being diagnosed with depression during the 2007-09 recession, though women were more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety after the recession. Unemployed or low-income women in the Northeast and Midwest were most likely to be diagnosed with anxiety, which the lead researcher says "could help policymakers craft targeted responses." The researchers think state-by-state analyses using unemployment rates could lead to better policies. (People who live in thin-air states might want to pay special attention.)

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