Written by Ekoja Okewu |
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“If you’ve spent any time in the public mental health system, you know that folks diagnosed or labelled as having serious mental illness are poor.”-Jack Carney


Depression and anxiety are the most common mental health illness, affecting 3 to 4% of the world’s population.1. A study by Hollingshead revealed that persons who are members of the lowest social stratum and the poorest have a higher incidence of presumed serious mental illness while another study showed that improving a person’s economic situation reduces their risks of anxiety and depression.


Poverty is defined as a state or condition in which a person or a community lacks the financial resources and essentials for a minimum standard of living.

According to WHO, mental health is a state of wellbeing in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to contribute to his or her community.


At a young age, I noticed that the reaction of teachers between the second and third week of the month was usually strange. During this period, many would have exhausted the peanuts paid to them as salaries and with the pressure of life weighing on them; they transfer this mental stress onto innocent pupils through indiscriminate flogging, use of rash vocabularies and unnecessary punishments. On my way home from school, I pass by unpaid civil servants who soliloquize while trekking back from work. Some lost in this act find it difficult to properly coordinate and respond to the horns of oncoming automobiles. On reaching home, my dad who is a civil servant will usually remain moody and unresponsive to some conversations until salaries are paid. On a visit to the hospital during the middle of the month, it is not-uncommon to see nurses being hostile to patients though they were trained to behave otherwise. Similar scenarios play out as one visits the bank hall during the same period. At such times, the climate of the banking halls are usually filled with hisses, complaints and quarrels from both the customers and bankers. However, towards the end of the month when salaries are expected, it is easy for someone to be stepped on without retaliation while on the queue. On several occasions when I have been down emotionally, I came to discover that once I got a credit alert within that  period, my mood changes in a split of second into a lively one. Presently I tutor at a primary school in my community and despite the passage of time, the trend has continued. My colleagues at work flog pupils at the slightest opportunity mid-month but towards the end of the month when wages are paid; there is usually a sharp decline in such unwarranted treatment.


 With practical experiences of mine from the case study examined, is it safe to say there is a relationship between poverty and mental health? The case studies exploration shows that there is a form of madness associated with everyone especially when poverty leads the equation of life.

That a relationship exists between poverty and mental illness was first established in the landmark New Haven study conducted by Hollingshead and Redlich in 19582. Their principal conclusion was that there is a significant relationship between socio-economic status and mental illness as regards the type and severity of the illness suffered as well as the type and quality of treatment provided to the victim.

Furthermore, a study conducted by Christopher Hudson between 1994 and 2000 in Massachusetts revealed that increased economic hardship across a community resulted in increased rates of mental illness and psychiatric hospitalizations for that community. From his study, it is remarkable to note that a strong and consistent negative correlation exists between socio-economic conditions and mental health. 


It is an established fact that poverty plays a great role in determining the mental health of humanity. With the harsh economic climate caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, international organizations should adopt preventive strategies while making effort to cushion the impacts of unemployment, food insecurity and economic development in underdeveloped nations. This will bridge the gap between poverty and mental health thereby, addressing the long-term global health state of man.


  1. Https:// -between-poverty-and-mental-illness
  2. Hollingshead, A., Redlich, F., Social class and mental illness: A community study, John Wiley, Newyork, 1958
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  4. C.F., Pols, H., “August Hollingshead and Frederick Redlich Poverty, socio-economic status and mental illness”. American journal of public health, October, 2007.
  5. Hudson, C.G., “Socio economic status and mental illness: Tests of the social caudation and selection Hypothesis,” American journal of Orthopsychiatry, vol. 75, No. 1 pp.3-18, 200


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Author: Ekoja Okewu
I am Ekoja Solomon from Nigeria. I love engaging in writeups that spur humanity into action


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