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Prescriptions for Mental Illnesses Spike During Recession

Update Date: Sep 20, 2013 10:53 AM EDT

Financial woes brought about by economic crises and downturns, such as a depression or a recession, can take a mental toll on people. A recent study published in the British Medical Journal discovered that after the 2008 global economic crisis, there was a jump in suicide rates specifically for men from America and Europe. Now, in a new study, researchers from the University of Georgia found that during recessions, drug prescriptions for mental illnesses rose.

"We see healthier outcomes [from the recession] for the most part, except for mental health," David Bradford, the Busbee Chair in Public Policy in the UGA School of Public and International Affairs said according to Medical Xpress.

In this study, Bradford worked with economics professor form the Terry College of Business, Bill Lastrapes. Together they looked at census data provided from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey of physicians. The data encompassed 21 years of information from 1989 through to 2009. The researchers focused specifically on unemployment rates in relation to drug prescriptions for mental illnesses. During the span of the surveys, there were three recessions, with the greatest one lasting from December 2007 to June 2009.

The researchers found that during recessions, unemployment rates increase. When these rates increased, the researchers found that prescriptions for anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs increased as well. Within the Northeast region, a one percent increase in the unemployment rate was tied to a 10 percent increase in drug prescriptions. The researchers stated that the northeast region was the most affected area.

"Unemployment rates in the U.S. exceeded 10 percent during the Great Recession, but that means 90 percent of the labor force was still working. So people were not necessarily depressed because they didn't have a job, but maybe because they were afraid of getting laid off," reasoned Lastrapes.

The researchers also looked at other statistics. They found that insurance rates varied greatly throughout the nation. In the Northeast, 90 percent of the rates were higher when compared to the South and the West with 83 and 84 percent respectively. The team explained that the higher rates of medical coverage could influence people to seek care and get prescription drugs. The researchers plan on examining the data from individuals to get a better idea of what might be driving the relationship between recessions and drug prescriptions for mental illnesses.

The study was published in Health Economics.

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