15 November 2016 Innovation in Health

Socioeconomic recessions and mental health

The Gulbenkian Mental Health Forum

The world’s leading specialists in the study of the social determinants of mental health and strategies for promoting the mental health of populations are to meet in the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation at the end of the November for the conference Socioeconomic Recessions and Mental Health: from Research to Action.

Throughout two days, scientific studies are to be presented on the effects of economic recession on the mental health of populations followed by debate and discussion of the strategies susceptible to minimising the risks to mental health from economic recession. We already know that economic recessions pose periods of raised risks to wellbeing and mental health. However, depending on the policies adopted, societies may display greater or lesser resilience to the negative effects of recessions.

Sir Michael Marmot, director of the Institute of Health Equity (University College London) and a researcher with over four decades of experience in issues related to health inequalities is one speaker particularly worthy of attention. This epidemiologist maintains that health is not simply a question of the style of life or access to healthcare services. “Health inequalities are generated by the conditions in which people are born, raised, live, work and age; and by the inequalities in power, money and resources – the social determinants of healthcare”, wrote Michael Marmot in an opinion article published in the The Guardian newspaper last year. The author of the book The Health Gap: The Challenge of an Unequal World (Bloomsbury, 2015), in which he develops the concept of a “social gradient in health” highlights how healthcare “is related to inequalities in the social and economic conditions that impact upon us all. The higher the level of education, the higher the level of income, the higher the health”. Crick Lund, from the University of Cape Town (South Africa), is another of the keynote speakers on this occasion and shall speak on poverty, inequalities and mental health. At the end of the forum, representatives of the World Health Organisation and the Lisbon Institute of Global Mental Health, a structure that results from the international work undertaken in recent years by the Faculty of Medical Sciences /Nova Medical School with support from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, will set out some strategic recommendations both for Portugal, a country that has been particularly hit by economic recession, and also for other countries interested in implementing these proposals.