For decades, researchers have known that poverty and mental illness are correlated; the lower a person's socio-economic status, the greater their chances are of having some sort of mental disorder. Living in poverty for any significant length of time increases all sorts of risk factors for health and mental health problems. You are more stressed, worrying about money constantly, and how you’re going to pay the bills or have enough money to eat. You eat worse because bad, processed food is so often cheaper than nutritional food. And then when people are mentally ill, they suffer social stigma, have higher health costs, and are at an even higher increased risk of becoming poor.
In a 2005 study, researcher Chris Hudson looked at the health records of 34,000 patients who have been hospitalized at least twice for mental illness over a period of 7 years. He found that poverty — acting through economic stressors such as unemployment and lack of affordable housing — is more likely to precede mental illness (except in patients with schizophrenia.) The data suggests that poverty impacts mental illness both directly and indirectly. Hudson's data shows mental illness to be three times as prevalent in low-income communities as in higher income ones; other studies have shown the rate to be anywhere from two to nine times higher in poor communities.
"It's true that anyone can breakdown but class differentials are often overlooked," Hudson says. "When it comes to mental illness, some people are more equal than others."