Fighting Depression Is A Way To Overcome Poverty

Fighting depression is one way of overcoming poverty

It is interesting that a study of happiness, depression, and poverty was not conducted by psychologists, but by economists looking at how these variables affect people’s quality of life. The study was led by Richard Layard, who is an expert on quality of life and happiness. One of his hypotheses was that happiness depended more on psychosocial factors than income. This hypothesis was confirmed in the study. The researchers found a connection between various mental states such as depression and poverty.

“Poverty does not arise from decreasing wealth, but from an increase in desires.”


The study, which was carried out at the London School of Economics in England (United Kingdom), used a sample of 200,000 people around the world. The main finding can be summed up in a single sentence, as Layard himself did: “Tackling depression is a way to overcome poverty that could be four times more effective than current approaches.”  This statement has been heavily criticized. The audience assumed that he was only campaigning to reduce the current fight against poverty. However, it is perfectly understandable how poverty arises from certain psychological states such as depression.

The relationship between depression and poverty

The global incidence and prevalence figures for depression are alarming. The World Health Organization estimates that up to 10% of the people in the world have major depression, and 20% of all people experience depression at least once in their life. But what does that have to do with poverty?

Traditionally, things are looked at as follows: Poverty goes hand in hand with an increased tendency towards depression. This statement is based on the assumption that depression occurs when one does not have enough money to live without having to go without something. That sounds logical at first.

Depressed youth

Of course, life in a consumer society is an important influencing factor. The ability to spend money is often viewed as a source of happiness. People think that buying things leads to inner peace and wellbeing if they don’t have to worry about money in the process. But there are so many people who have a fortune, who can spend money whenever they want, and who are still depressed. Studies like Layard’s also show that there are people who cannot increase their happiness despite doubling their income. It is known that in countries with high consumption rates, a particularly large number of people suffer from depression. This is the case in Japan, for example. And in contrast, other Asian countries, where the poverty rate is high, top the happiness statistics.

Investing in mental health is investing in economic wealth

What we do know is that depression is wearing down people, families and societies. People who are depressed are less productive and more likely to be absent from work. They are also often dependent on social benefits to support them during their illness or until they find a solution to their inability to work. The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has stated that up to 4% of a country’s GDP is spent on treating mental and emotional problems.

It is obvious that the deficiency some people live in has a huge impact on their psyche. Depression seems particularly easy in poor conditions. However, according to the IDB, it is not poverty itself that causes depression; rather, it is inequality. It is sad to be part of a reality where some live excessively while others exist in absolute need.

Begging man

Let us now consider the opposite hypothesis: the one that assumes that the path from depression to poverty is easier to walk. People who are mentally healthy and motivated can actively pursue the satisfaction of their needs. They can find work more easily and avoid making decisions that plant the seeds of long-term poverty. For example, they have a lower risk of unwanted pregnancies.

But mental health cannot be achieved with money alone, nor is it lost with lack of money. The problem is more complex. It has to do with the prevailing attitude in consumer society that you have to have something in order to be something. Investing in the mental health of the population therefore does not mean training more psychologists or opening more hospitals. It means promoting times and places where people can get in touch with reality and see that it is not what they see on screen. And this funding needs money. Layard’s economists therefore emphasize the importance of investing in mental health in addition to other investments to fight poverty.

Face in the cosmos

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