THURSDAY, Aug. 19 (HealthDay News) -- The economic downturn has put thousands of Americans out of work, but their bank accounts aren't the only things suffering as unemployment remains high and they struggle to find a job.
Surveys by Mental Health America and other researchers have found that people affected by the lousy economy have a higher risk for mental illness, especially such conditions as depression and anxiety.
The U.S. government has taken steps to help. Federal stimulus and jobs bills and unemployment benefit extensions helped some people cope with the effects of the bad economy. And new rules that took effect in July require that group health insurance policies offer the same level of coverage for mental health issues as for other medical or surgical issues.
The government also has promulgated rules to ensure that large businesses that choose to offer mental health and substance abuse benefits make them available at a level comparable to their existing medical insurance benefits.
David L. Shern, president and chief executive of Mental Health America, considers these important steps toward keeping Americans mentally healthy as they stand on the brink.
"We need to make sure we provide adequate social safety nets so that, although they will have their life strategy disrupted, their ability to meet basic needs will continue," Shern said.
The Mental Health America survey found that unemployed people were four times as likely as people with jobs to report symptoms consistent with severe mental illness.
But the harmful mental effects of the economy aren't limited to the unemployed. People whose jobs were changed by the economic downturn -- those who went through involuntary job changes or had their hours or pay cut at work -- were twice as likely to have symptoms consistent with severe mental illness, the survey found.
It also found that un
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