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Mental Health Declining for Disadvantaged U.S. Adults

Increasing distress, decreasing well-being observed for those of low relative socioeconomic position

TUESDAY, June 19, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Mental health seems to be declining among Americans of low relative socioeconomic position, according to a study published online June 18 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Noreen Goldman, D.Sc., from Princeton University in New Jersey, and colleagues assessed the trends in despair among American adults. The absence of established scales or definitions of despair as well as a paucity of studies examining changes in psychological health have complicated the examination of these trends. The authors used two cross-sectional waves of the Midlife in the United States study (1995 to 1996 and 2011 to 2014) to examine changes in measures of psychological distress and well-being, which capture negative and positive emotions.

The researchers found that increasing distress and decreasing well-being were observed across the age span for those of low relative socioeconomic position in most of the measures. In contrast, for persons of high relative position, there was little decline or modest improvement.

“Overall, our results paint a picture of substantial social stratification in psychological health among American adults, one that has been widening as declines in mental health have occurred unevenly across the socioeconomic spectrum,” the authors write.

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