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Arch Hellen Med, 24(3), May-June 2007, 224-231


The association between socio-economic status and mental disorders

1Hellenic Open University, School of Social Sciences, Patra,
2Department of Psychiatry, University of Ioannina, School of Medicine, Ioannina, Greece

Poverty and related conditions such as unemployment and low educational status are associated with a higher prevalence of mental and behavioural disorders. This higher prevalence may be due to the observation that poor people are at a greater risk of developing mental disorders (social causality hypothesis). Alternatively, patients with mental disorders may be at a greater risk for future social disadvantage (social selection hypothesis). The first mechanism may be of value for depression or anxiety disorders, while the second hypothesis may better explain the higher prevalence of psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia. Poverty is also related with poorer physical, cognitive and social development of children and adolescents and also to poor functioning during early and middle childhood. These findings support the view that interventions aiming at the prevention and promotion of mental disorders should start early in life and be directed to high risk groups of socially disadvantaged populations.

Key words: Mental disorders, Social causation, Social selection.

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