In their own words: How do people in the UK understand the impacts of socioeconomic disadvantage on their mental helath and risk factors for suicide?

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Although the links between socioeconomic deprivation and negative health outcomes have been extensively explored, few studies focus explicitly on mental health and/or consider people's own explanations for the negative health impacts of deprivation. This chapter aims to begin addressing this gap by reviewing studies describing lay perspectives on the role of socioeconomic deprivation in mental health outcomes. It synthesises the findings of the 27 relevant publications (relating to 25 studies) that were identified in database searches (supplemented by reference mining and the use of citation tools). The results highlight the complex and dynamic relationships linking experiences of socioeconomic deprivation to experiences of poor mental health. Nonetheless, it is possible to identify some broad 'policy messages' from this review. First, efforts to maintain, or replace, large employers in areas with limited employment opportunities are likely to have particularly positive impacts on mental health in deprived areas (and, in the absence of this, interventions to support the mental health of affected communities are likely to be needed). Second, the findings highlight that people feel there is a strong link between psychological experience, such as stress, fear, anger, guilt and a sense of being unfairly treated or ignored, and their mental and physical health status. This suggests that policy decisions to reduce public spending on welfare and to increase the conditionality and monitoring of benefits recipients, which are likely to increase stress, fear, etc, will have negative consequences for mental health. Third, recognised contributors to poor mental health relating to 'lifestyle behaviours', such as alcoholism, drug use and smoking, are consistently described across studies as 'coping' mechanisms or forms of escapism, suggesting that policy interventions aimed at this level are unlikely to succeed unless they are accompanied by efforts to tackle more fundamental causes.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDying from Inequality
Subtitle of host publicationSocioeconomic Distadvantage and Suicidal Behaviour
Place of Publication[S.I.]
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2017


  • socioeconomic deprivation
  • mental health
  • deprivation


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