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Income is money received for goods, investments, employment, or from benefits. Low income can lead to poverty, which is not having enough money for basic needs (1). Finances can be affected by debt, which is borrowed money, often from banks (2). People may feel ‘financially insecure’ if they feel they do not have enough money for a satisfactory living standard (3). This might include a lack of access to adequate food, or food insecurity (4).


Income Risk/Pro

Risk and/or Protective Factor

Income is a protective factor for mental health, as living in a household with high income has been associated with a reduced likelihood of experiencing mental health difficulties (5). On the other hand, low income and poverty have been linked to mental health difficulties and increased barriers to accessing treatments (6,7). Debt can affect mental health and has been linked with conditions such as suicide, drug dependence, and depression (8). Wealth has also been inversely related to depression, where those with more assets have lower rates of depression (9). Lastly, food insecurity significantly increases the likelihood of stress and depression (10). 



1.        Joseph Rowntree Foundation. UK Poverty 2019-20. The leading independent report. York; 2020.

2.        Chen J, James M. Debt. Investopedia. 2020 [cited 2021 Jan 11]. Available from:

3.        Rakhimova N. Aging with financial insecurity: social resilience and adaptation in urban areas of the United States. Nat Resour Forum. 2018 Nov 1;42(4):227–42. Available from:

4.        Bne Saad M. Food Security and Insecurity: Causes and Consequences. In: The Global Hunger Crisis, Tackling Food Insecurity in Developing Countries. London: Pluto Press; 2013.

5.        Marmot M, Allen J, Goldblatt P, Boyce T, McNeish D, Grady M, et al. Fair Society, Healthy Lives: The Marmot Review. 2010.

6.        Sareen J, Afifi TO, McMillan KA, Asmundson GJG. Relationship between household income and mental disorders: Findings from a population-based longitudinal study. Arch Gen Psychiatry [Internet]. 2011 Apr [cited 2021 Feb 2];68(4):419–27. Available from:

7.        Santiago CD, Kaltman S, Miranda J. Poverty and Mental Health: How Do Low-Income Adults and Children Fare in Psychotherapy? J Clin Psychol. 2013 Feb 1 [cited 2021 Jan 19];69(2):115–26. Available from:

8.        Richardson T, Elliott P, Roberts R. The relationship between personal unsecured debt and mental and physical health: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Clin Psychol Rev. 2013 Dec 1;33(8):1148–62.

9.        Ettman CK, Adam GP, Clark MA, Wilson IB, Vivier PM, Galea S. Wealth and depression: a scoping review. Brain and Behav. 2022 Feb 8;e2486. Available from: 

10.        Pourmotabbed A, Moradi S, Babaei A, Ghavami A, Mohammadi H, Jalili C, et al. Food insecurity and mental health: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Public Health Nutr. 2020 Jul 1 [cited 2021 Jan 19];23(10):1854. Available from:


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