# Mental Health Optimisation and the Macro Environment

I'm studying the below questions. I appreciate they're rather broad - the purpose of this post is to get guidance on where I might start. I'm hoping someone can provide more focused examples of related studies which will help me move forward.

To what extent does a high level sense of direction weigh on day to day mental health optimisation?

In other words...

How is the economy relevant to mental health optimisation and does progression at such a macro level support individual psychological health progression?

By 'high level sense of direction' I mean the level of optimism in our environment - whether that be from growing financial markets, an evolving political landscape, levels of world conflict etc. (I'm talking vision/risk appetite/optimism. Perhaps there is an academic term within the cognitive sciences for this? Behavioral Ecology?)

I'm looking to analyse how our global connectivity and processing of world news/events which highlight sometimes far-removed changes in our environment, directly impact our mental state.

Ideas:

• Have there been any studies into the relationship between economic performance and anxiety? Maybe the psychological outlook of Millenials who experienced a very difficult economic environment during 2007 to 2013 (credit crisis) whilst trying to enter the workforce? Many didn't and lived with parents longer, haven't bought houses etc..
• Perhaps the relationship between proliferation of social media news services and psychological health?

Please provide reading suggestions and advise if I'm not using terms recognised in the realm of cognitive science/psychology. Please add relevant tags to my question as not sure where this fits in; looking to bridge two worlds here.

• I don't think I saw this question come up for review, otherwise I would have voted to close it as being too broad. You are asking how any macroeconomic factor might affect any mental health issue? Is there any way this could be narrowed down to a single environmental factor and a single disorder, such as the effect of economic performance on levels of diagnosis of major depressive disorder? Otherwise, the answer to this question would be the size of a book. I'm not certain that even a single example can have a definitive answer, but worth a try... – Arnon Weinberg Apr 27 '17 at 17:27
• If I could find a journal on the effect of economic performance on levels of diagnosis of a major depressive disorder, that would be perfect. Happy to see a single example. I appreciate an exhaustive answer is not appropriate here - I'm just looking for a starting point - I'm looking for specific examples which support the view that macroeconomic performance can have a deep impact on mental health right now.. – DVCITIS Apr 27 '17 at 17:33
• So no, I am not asking how any macroeconomic factor might affect any mental health issue.. I am asking if anyone can think of an example of a study where the impact of one (or more) macro economic factors has impacted a specific mental health issue. I'm looking to explore the questions posted above and I'm looking for guidance on where I might start within cognitive/psychology academia. – DVCITIS Apr 27 '17 at 17:40
• OK, it's just that searching Google for "economy and mental health" brings up tons of results, so examples don't seem hard to come by... Here is one: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21968374 – Arnon Weinberg Apr 27 '17 at 17:42
• Yes there's a lot of reading, its overwhelming - hence my question. Perhaps I should re-phrase the question to: can the cognitive sciences community on this website advise where the most up to date/popular/most respected views are on mental health and the economy? – DVCITIS Apr 27 '17 at 17:48

For a high-level overview, I usually start with Wikipedia. Wikipedia is a peer-reviewed, community-contributed, comprehensive source of high-level information. The user community has already done the work for us of aggregating large volumes of primary and secondary source material, digesting it for the reader, keeping it up to date, and ensuring a balanced approach. so it should meet your needs as a starting point of "where the most up to date/popular/most respected views" might be. Wikipedia also provides links to related articles, and reference source materials that you can follow up on to dig deeper. Any similar online encyclopaedia-style wiki would be fine too (eg, Scholarpedia) if you prefer.

The article on "Causes of mental disorders" has a section on environmental factors. Some highlights:

... environmental causes are stressors that individuals deal with in everyday life. These stressors range from financial issues to having low self-esteem. ... The lower the socioeconomic status of an individual the higher the risk of mental illness. Impoverished people are actually two to three times more likely to develop mental illness than those of a higher economic class. ... there is a strong association between poverty and substance abuse. ... Problems in communities or cultures, including poverty, unemployment or underemployment, lack of social cohesion, and migration, have been associated with the development of mental disorders.

You may also be interested in the reverse effect - of mental health on the economy. You can also use Wikipedia to research specific disorders, such as the effect of the economy on major depressive disorder (depression). It's important to pay attention to cause and effect when doing this. For example:

Depression is often associated with unemployment and poverty. ... prevalence is in groups with stronger socioeconomic factors i.e. homelessness.

Read this carefully, as it doesn't mean that a bad economy causes depression, only that poverty and depression co-occur - it's equally likely that depression causes poverty than the other way around. Having said that, there is strong evidence that economic health does affect rates of depression:

Although reverse causation—poor mental health leading to lower earnings—is present, it is no longer considered the primary mechanism behind the association between income and health. Several longitudinal studies have specifically examined the relationship between depression and socioeconomic status and concluded that the causal direction runs from socioeconomic status to depression.

I hope that this is what you were looking for to get started.

• Great answer, especially your starting paragraph. Should be the start for every wiki-style question :) – Robin Kramer Apr 28 '17 at 12:11
• Good starting point to such a broad question – Chris Rogers May 2 '17 at 17:27