In a study from UCL Psychology & Language Sciences, scientists found people without jobs or with less secure housing have poorer outcomes when treated for depression with talking therapy or antidepressants.
They say that addressing employment and housing needs may be helpful alongside depression treatments to support the mental health of people who are socioeconomically disadvantaged.
In the study, the researchers combined evidence from nine studies, which included a total of 4,864 people who had been treated for depression, where data was available on socioeconomic factors such as jobs and housing.
They found that after three to four months of treatment, unemployed patients had 28% worse depression symptoms than those who were employed.
Homeowners’ depression symptoms were 18% better than for people who were homeless or living in hostels or with family and friends.
The team suggests additional support to access employment or housing could also lead to improvement in mental health.
From the findings, the team cannot confirm whether helping to improve people’s work and housing situations would improve their mental health directly, or if it would set them up to be more able to engage in treatment.
They hope that further research will shed more light on how best to support the mental health needs of people experiencing social disadvantage.
People who were unemployed or had less secure housing had worse outcomes even when compared to people who had similar severity or number of symptoms when they started treatment.
The researchers also reviewed whether financial strain or educational attainment were associated with treatment efficacy, but they did not find a strong effect for either factor, nor did those factors explain the links with employment and housing status.
After the initial few months of treatment, the gaps between groups continued to widen, as after nine to 12 months, unemployed patients had 37% worse symptoms than employed patients.
The researchers suggest that social disadvantage can increase people’s risk of mental ill health, so it is particularly concerning that on top of that higher underlying risk, people without jobs or secure housing are also less likely to recover from depression.
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The study was conducted by Dr. Joshua Buckman et al and published in JAMA Psychiatry.
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