Correlation between Poverty and Mental Health: Towards a Psychiatric Evaluation

72 Pages Posted: 27 Sep 2012

See all articles by Gerald C. Ogbuja

Gerald C. Ogbuja

University of Texas - Harris County Psychiatric Center

Date Written: September 25, 2012


A review of epidemiological journals on mental health identifies a link between poverty and chronic health disorders. Explanatory models of persons suffering from mental health disorders have been described in a number of studies, in all of which poverty and socioeconomic problems have been cited as one of the most important factors causing emotional distress (Patel, 1995). Some medical literatures have shown a clear association between indicators of poverty and the risk of mental disorders, the most consistent link being with low levels of education and income (Patel, et, al, 2003). While these indicators remain unclear to me, there are still unfounded beliefs on how poverty triggers chronic mental illnesses. However, recent exploratory studies have strongly supported the link between poverty and mental health. Drawing analysis from exploratory studies, I tend to argue in this study that poverty is a gateway to mental illness. This argument is based on statistical studies that have pointed out that poor mental health conditions have greater potentiality to trigger many forms of psychological distress. Despites poor condition of life, genetic and psychological factors supports the link between poverty and mental illness. Clinicians in the last two decades have identified difficulties while untangling effects of "social causation, adversity and stress associated with low social statuses from those within "social selection,” which posits that genetically predisposed persons can drift down or fail to rise in their poverty” (Dohrenwend, Levav, Shrout et al, 1992). This descriptive study makes a case that there is correlation between poverty, psychological distress and mental health. My believe is supported by new study published in the Journal of mental health disorder which strongly argues that childhood poverty, adolescents level of stress and induced mental health disorder in adults are linked together. For Drishya (2012), the way we spend our childhood and the experiences we gain at our tender age stays with us for the rest of our lives. This paper uses evidence-research methodologies from cross sectional regions of the country to demonstrate an association between poverty and homelessness and how both are associated with mental health disorders. It uses empirical studies to support a correlation that exists between depression, suicidal ideation, schizophrenic symptoms and anxiety disorders. Future research is needed to further identify link between poverty, substance dependence, depression, and other mental health problems. Poverty alleviation and prevention efforts should target those with substance use and delinquent behaviors.

Keywords: Correlation, Mental health Disorders, Homelessness, Dual Diagnosis, Depression, Substance Abuse, Co Morbidity, Low Socio-economic Status and Schizophrenia

Suggested Citation

Ogbuja, Gerald C., Correlation between Poverty and Mental Health: Towards a Psychiatric Evaluation (September 25, 2012). Available at SSRN: or

Gerald C. Ogbuja (Contact Author)

University of Texas - Harris County Psychiatric Center ( email )

2800 S. Macgregor Way, Houston, TX 77021
Aldine ISD 14910 Aldine Westfield Rd
Houston, TX 77032
United States
8328782126 (Self) (Phone)

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