Poverty and Mental Health

Homelessness can result from many factors, such as whether a person is working, the experience of family and domestic violence, ill health (including mental health) and disability, trauma, and substance misuse (Fitzpatrick et al., 2012).

Ongoing stress associated with poverty, or the stress of living with less than one needs, creates constant wear and tear on the body, dysregulating and damaging the body’s physiological stress response system and reducing cognitive and psychological resources for battling adversity and stress.

Homelessness can expose people to violence and victimization, result in long-term unemployment and lead to the development of chronic ill health. Some health problems can cause a person to become homeless. For example, poor physical or mental health can reduce a person’s ability to find employment or earn an adequate income. Alternatively, some health problems are a consequence of homelessness, including depression, poor nutrition, poor dental health, substance abuse, and mental health problems. Recent studies have also found that people experiencing homelessness also experience significantly higher rates of death, disability, and chronic illness than the general population (Homelessness is a Human Rights Issue | Australian Human Rights Commission, 2008).

Common mental disorders are about twice as frequent among the poor as among the rich.

For example, evidence indicates that depression is 1.5 to 2 times more prevalent among the low-income groups of a population. People experiencing hunger or facing debts are more likely to suffer from common mental disorders (Breaking the vicious cycle between mental ill-health and poverty, n.d.). 

 According to www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, “Low income and poverty were linked to inconsistent, unsupportive, and uninvolved parenting styles and poor parental mental health, which in turn are associated with child behavior problems”(Kaiser et al., 2017).

In a recent study based on the UK Millennium Cohort Study, Fitzsimons et al. showed that persistent poverty was associated with peer and conduct problems. They also reported that transitions into poor maternal mental health were associated with decreased child mental health in various domains (emotional, peer, conduct, and hyperactivity). Fathers’ mental health was less important, but paternal mental distress was associated with an increased chance of children developing emotional problems by age 11.                 

Overall, Poverty increases the risk of mental health problems and can be both a causal factor and a consequence of mental ill health. Mental health is shaped by the wide-ranging characteristics (including inequalities) of the social, economic and physical environments in which people live.

Next time, I will go into more depth and how racism can be a factor as well.


Fitzpatrick, S., Bramley, G., & Johnsen, S. (2012). Pathways into Multiple Exclusion Homelessness in Seven UK Cities. Urban Studies, 50(1), 148–168. https://doi.org/10.1177/0042098012452329

Homelessness is a Human Rights Issue | Australian Human Rights Commission. (2008). Humanrights.gov.au. https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/rights-and-freedoms/publications/homelessness-human-rights-issue

Breaking the vicious cycle between mental ill-health and poverty. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.who.int/mental_health/policy/development/1_Breakingviciouscycle_Infosheet.pdf

Kaiser, T., Li, J., Pollmann-Schult, M., & Song, A. (2017). Poverty and Child Behavioral Problems: The Mediating Role of Parenting and Parental Well-Being. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14(9), 981. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph14090981

Hi! I'm a young scientist passionate about bringing awareness to poverty and changing people's mindsets! Thank you for checking out my posts!