RATES of unemployment for people with mental health problems have risen more than twice as much as those for the rest of the population during the recession, research shows.
The Europe-wide study warned that those affected by mental health conditions had been disproportionately affected by the economic crisis, which further increased social exclusion in this vulnerable group.
Mental health campaigners said they had seen a big increase in people contacting them with concerns about unemployment in recent times.
The most recent figures on unemployment in Scotland revealed that the number of people jobless rose by 8,000, to 205,000, in the three months March to May, with an unemployment rate of 7.5 per cent among the general population.
For the latest study focusing on mental health, scientists from King’s College London collected data from 27 European Union countries involving more than 20,000 people in 2006 and again in 2010.
They then assessed factors such as mental health conditions, age, gender, levels of education and the current employment rate.
The researchers discovered that in 2006, unemployment in those studied stood at 7.1 per cent for people without mental health problems, compared to 12.7 per cent for people with mental health problems. In 2010, this had risen to 9.8 per cent in those without a mental health condition and to 18.2 per cent in those with a problem.
While both groups saw unemployment increase, the rise stood at 5.5 per cent for people with mental health problems compared to 2.7 per cent for those without.
Dr Sara Evans-Lacko, lead author of the study from King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, said: “The economic recession has had enormous impact across much of Europe, but there is little information about the specific impact of the recession on groups who are already vulnerable to social exclusion, specifically, people with mental health problems.
“This is the first study to show that the European economic crisis has had a profound impact on people with mental health problems, compared to those without.”
The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, also identified other groups more likely to be badly affected by the economic downturn.
The researchers found that men and individuals with lower levels of education had a significantly greater increase in the likelihood of being unemployed after the recession. In 2010, 21.7 per cent of men with mental health problems were jobless, up from 13.7 per cent in 2006.
The researchers also said that “stigmatising attitudes” – especially beliefs regarding how dangerous people with mental health problems are – were an important factor contributing to the rise in unemployment.
Living in a country where a higher proportion of individuals believed that people with mental health problems were dangerous was associated with higher levels of unemployment for people with mental health problems, they said.
Marjorie Wallace, chief executiveve of the mental health charity SANE, said: “We are already living with the serious consequences that recession can have, particularly for people already close to the edge.”