Poverty, the foe that plunges us into depression

Last week, I published a  post on how depression cuts across all social classes and the fact that no one, whether rich or poor is free from depression. After a couple of shares and discussion on the topic, I received a feedback on the matter that poverty is the issue in Ghana and not depression. The comment may have been meant as a joke but I still decided to focus my next article on the relationship between poverty and depression, and also to clear the myth that our only problem is poverty. Poverty is, in essence, the beginning of all our woes, ultimately the enemy pushing many of us into depression.

It is a well-established fact the relationship between poverty and depression; with socioeconomic factors like owning properties, the stability of one’s income, ability to secure basic necessities and the ability to keep a job playing a major role. The presumed stresses of the rapid development of our towns into cities and changes in our culture have also produced negative effects on both the physical and mental health of the average Ghanaian. Unfortunately, the mental health concerns—although an important part of daily life and the well-being of human beings —have been overtaken by other health problems, of most concern infectious diseases.

In the past, researchers claimed depression wasn’t present among Ghanaians but in those times there were more complaints of anxiety and tension, feelings of guilt and self-reproach. Physical symptoms such as irregular heartbeats, burning sensations and difficulty falling asleep were also common. However, these symptoms were not considered to be signs of depression because our knowledge and understanding of depression were limited. In a recent study by the Kintampo Health Research Institute, depression was identified as the leading mental health problem in Ghana contrary to the belief that madness is.

Depression is a relevant mental health concern and should not be neglected. It affects the quality of our life (e.g., low marital quality, low work performance, low earnings), increases our risk of a wide range of chronic physical disorders, and contributes to early mortality due to suicide.


Further reading
1. U M Read and V CK Doku, (2012), Mental Health Research in Ghana: A Literature Review. Ghana Med J., 46(2 Suppl): 29–38.
2. Heather SipsmaEmail author, Angela Ofori-Atta, Maureen Canavan, Isaac Osei-Akoto, Christopher Udry and Elizabeth H Bradley, (2013), Poor mental health in Ghana: who is at risk? BMC Public Health, 13:288


6 thoughts on “Poverty, the foe that plunges us into depression”

  1. It’s interesting how you raise important but contentious issue and don’t follow through your debate to nail down you arguments. In this specific case of poverty, it would have been interesting to see whether your opinion is formed as a result of a correlation between poverty and depression or rather poverty as a causal indicator of depression.
    Either way, I still think the relationship between poverty and depression is very much a contentious one since there are a multitude of poor people who don’t contend with depression while on the other hand, there are rich people who are struggling with it. Maybe you should deal with the topic again in more detail.


    1. Whether one realises it or not, there is a correlation between poverty and depression. When depression hits someone in the middle class, it’s relatively easy to recognize because one moment, you are going about your usual activity and the next moment you begin to feel bad all the time. The quality of your life is affected, you become withdrawn. These changes are not consistent with your life and you immediately seek help because you know something is wrong. On the other hand, for someone at he bottom of the social ladder, these signs may be less visible because life may never have been great and may have always been lousy. For these people, even if something is up, it may be deemed normal and would never attribute it to depression but just the usual difficult life. And even admitting to being depressed is another strain on their already non existent income and this may prevent them from seeking treatment.


      1. I don’t disagree with the claim of a correlation between poverty and depression even though no evidence have been provided here. My point is, poverty correlates with several other conditions besides depression. So please clarify your position. Is it your contention that poverty is a cause of depression? If so, then you will need to go beyond correlations and establish causality. If your point however is that poor people suffer the effect of depression more than the rich as you seem to imply with your argument on early detection and ability to get treatment, you can further elaborate this point and propose alternative way through poor people can get help.


      2. The relationship between poverty and depression isn’t a direct “cause and effect” scenario as there are other factors that contribute to one developing depression. Rich people are as likely to develop depression as poor people, the difference between these two population is the approach to the condition and availability of treatment options.
        Not so many low-cost treatment options are available for poor people and I do not know if our health insurance makes provision for mental health issues. The first channel to address this would be to inform these people about mental health and how much concern it should be given as much as their physical health.


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