Socioeconomic factors and mental health

Editors: Professor Matthew Smith and Dr Lucas Richert (University of Strathclyde, UK)

 Scope: This article collection examines how the relationship between socioeconomic factors and mental health has been and is understood in an array of different places and periods. Although much of the focus of current mental health research and clinical practice is on the neurological aspects of mental illness and psychopharmacological treatment, historical research demonstrates that a wide range of factors—from vitamin deficiencies such as pellagra, and infections such as syphilis to traumatic life events—have contributed to the onset and exacerbation of mental health problems. Among all these factors, one looms largest: socioeconomic status. On the one hand, socioeconomic inequality has been long recognised as a potential cause of mental illness, as the history of mental hygiene and social psychiatry during much of the twentieth century demonstrates. On the other hand, however, the mentally ill have also historically faced much socioeconomic hardship; today, a high proportion of the homeless and incarcerated in many countries suffer from mental illness.

 By exploring this topic across time and place, this collection provides a historical context for today’s mental health crisis, and offers perspectives that can inform current mental health policy, especially attempts to prevent or alleviate mental illness through social change.

 Interested in contributing a research paper for this collection? Read our call for papers.