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Poverty and Mental Illness: Are They Connected?

Both cause various problems, but are poverty and mental illness connected? Does a lack of housing or insufficient food cause mental illness? Does having a mental illness mean you automatically live in poverty? These are essential questions to ask, and the good news is that there are answers.  Today’s blog is about exploring the relationship between poverty and mental illness. We’ll begin by looking at poverty and mental illness individually before examining how they’re connected. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about poverty and mental illness. 

What Is Poverty?

In its most basic definition, poverty means you don’t have enough money or material possessions for your basic needs. No one needs a flat-screen TV, but everyone needs a bed to sleep in and food to eat. If you don’t have enough food or lack shelter, you’re dealing with poverty. The World Bank Organization says poverty is “being sick and not being able to see a doctor. Poverty is not having access to school and not knowing how to read. Poverty is not having a job, is fear for the future, living one day at a time.”  Poverty can look like frequently moving, feeling like you want to escape but have no way out, or wanting change but not having the means to access or incorporate change.  Poverty often prevents individuals from living life how they want to. For example, poverty can prevent you from going on vacation, participating in events with an entrance fee, or going to a birthday party because you can’t afford a present. 

What Is Mental Illness?

Psychiatry.org defines mental illnesses as “health conditions involving changes in emotion, thinking, or behavior — or a combination of these. Contrary to what some may believe, mental illness can affect anyone for any reason. Factors like age, gender, physical location, race, religion, sexual orientation, etc., can affect your mental health, but they cannot cause it.  Did you know that:
  • 19% of U.S. adults have some form of mental illness
  • 4.1% of U.S. adults have a severe mental illness
  • 8.5% of U.S. adults have a substance use disorder
There are all kinds of mental health conditions, including:
  • Anxiety disorders.
  • ADHD.
  • Bipolar Disorder.
  • Borderline Personality Disorder.
  • Depression.
  • Dissociative Disorders.
  • Eating Disorders.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
  • Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.
  • Psychosis.
  • Schizoaffective Disorder.
  • Schizophrenia.
All mental illnesses can be treated, but not all can be cured. For example, depression can be situational and go away on its own, but some individuals suffer from debilitating depression and need daily medication. There is no one-size-fits-all answer; mental illness must be addressed on an individual basis. 

Are Poverty and Mental Illness Connected?

As separate issues, poverty and mental illness are difficult to handle. Now the question is, are they connected? Does poverty cause mental illness? Does mental illness cause poverty? And if the answer is yes, how does it work? Simply put, poverty can cause mental illness, and mental illness can cause poverty, but they do not necessarily happen because of each other. You can live in poverty while being mentally healthy, and you can have a mental illness but not be poor.  However, you can most definitely struggle with mental illness because of poverty and vice versa. Let’s take a deeper look at how poverty and mental illness can interact when they do. 

How Poverty and Mental Illness Are Connected

According to the National Library of Medicine at the National Center for Biotechnology Information, “poverty is both a cause of mental health problems and a consequence. Poverty in childhood and among adults can cause poor mental health through social stresses, stigma, and trauma.” In the research they conducted for the article linked above, they studied data from Scotland and other areas in Western Europe that suffer from some of the worst poverty in the world. Many individuals living in poverty didn’t get there through any fault of their own, but that doesn’t change their daily living conditions.  The relationship between poverty and mental illness is complicated. There are social, environmental, and economic factors.  In Glasgow, for example, many adults take advantage of government benefits for the unemployed to help make ends meet for their families. Mental illness is much higher in this area than in areas with lower poverty. There are high rates of mental health conditions, anxiety medication prescriptions, depression, psychosis, and psychiatric disorders. Glasgow also deals with high mortality rates due to deaths of despair, namely suicide, alcohol, and drug use.  But poverty doesn’t just affect adults; children also experience the repercussions. The factors that affect young children can affect their mental health long into their adult years. If you don’t have enough food to eat as a child, you’re dealing with food scarcity. Even if it’s only temporary, that mindset will travel with the child into adulthood.  Many adults who face poverty as children are afraid of not having enough food as adults, even if they earn enough money to provide for themselves, which can cause anxiety. An individual making a six-figure income could easily deal with anxiety and depression, even when all signs point to financial success. These fears and concerns can be traced back to childhood poverty. 

Stigma and Discrimination

Unfortunately, because money is required for just about everything in the world, poverty comes with a stigma and discrimination that can further contribute to mental illness. Poverty can affect every aspect of one’s life, including work, home life, schooling, and money.  Without money, it can be challenging to obtain a good education. Without that education, work options are limited. Not having enough money to make ends meet can result in stress and contention at home. Sadly, children and adults are often looked down on for their inability to achieve more because of poverty’s limitations. As if they have control over the factors that led to their poverty.  Ardu Recovery Center Poverty and mental illness are separate but connected. Unfortunately, living in poverty can cause anxiety and depression, among other mental illnesses. Societal stigma and discrimination further aggravate this.  But growing up in poverty or dealing with mental illness doesn’t have to be a struggle you go through alone. Sure, you might struggle to eradicate poverty and mental illness from your life, but you don’t have to cope with them alone.  If you or a loved one needs help to recover from or treat mental illness, consider Ardu Recovery Center. Located in northern Utah, we specialize in in-patient and out-patient recovery programs that tackle numerous health concerns, such as anxiety and depression.  We provide a holistic approach to treatment that combines modern medicine with traditional remedies like yoga and reiki. No matter what you’re going through, we can help. You can call us at 801.512.0086 or contact us via the form on our website. We’ll be there for you whenever you reach out!