Mental health and the jilted generation: Using age-period-cohort analysis to assess differential trends in young People’s mental health following the Great Recession and austerity in England

from Social Science & Medicine at http://bit.ly/2olvHWY on August 29, 2018 at 04:15PM


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Available online 29 August 2018

Mental health and the jilted generation: Using age-period-cohort analysis to assess differential trends in young People’s mental health following the Great Recession and austerity in England

Open Access funded by Medical Research Council

open access

Highlights

Mental health in England has consistently improved from generation to generation.

These generational improvements have been most marked for women.

Following the onset of austerity young women experienced worsening mental health.

Mental health of over 65s was relatively protected during recession and austerity.

Austerity policies have potential to widen generational inequality in mental health.

Abstract

Those born in the United Kingdom post-1979 have been described as a ‘jilted generation’, materially disadvantaged by economic and social policy; however, it is unclear whether this resulted in their experiencing poorer mental health than previous cohorts. Following the 2008 recession, UK austerity reforms associated with worsening mental health also disproportionately impacted those of younger working-age. This study aimed to identify any historic cohort changes in population mental health, and whether austerity widened generational inequalities. Repeat cross-sectional data from the Health Survey for England (1991–2014) was used to calculate prevalence of psychopathology for those of younger and older working-age (16–30 and 31–64 years) and retirement-age (65 + years), measured by General Health Questionnaire-12 (GHQ) score ≥ 4 (caseness). Descriptive age-period-cohort analysis was performed for 15-year birth cohorts, including the jilted generation (born 1976-90). Logistic regression tested differences in outcome between groups.

Age-specific GHQ caseness between successive birth cohorts did not significantly change for men, and significantly improved between 2.8% (95% CI 0.1%–5.5%) and 4.4% (95% CI 2.2%–6.7%) for women. Secondary analysis adjusting for education partially explained this improvement. Following the recession, GHQ caseness worsened in men of younger and older working-age by 3.7% (95% CI 1.2%–6.2%) and 3.5% (95% CI 2.1%–5.0%) respectively before returning to baseline during austerity. All women experienced non-significant increases post-recession, but trends diverged during austerity with caseness worsening by 2.3% (95% CI 1.0%–3.6%) for older working-age women versus 3.7% (95% CI 1.3%–6.2%) for younger working-age women. Those of retirement-age experienced little change throughout. In summary, mental health has historically improved between successive cohorts, including for the jilted generation. However, the 2008 recession and subsequent austerity could be most impacting those of younger working-age, particularly women, to create a new cohort effect. Policymakers should consider the differential impact economic and social policy may have across society by age.

Keywords

UK

Mental health

Health inequalities

Social epidemiology

Social policy

Austerity

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