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Divided Lives: A local case study exploring austerity and inequalities in mental health

MATTHEYS, KATE (2017) Divided Lives: A local case study exploring austerity and inequalities in mental health. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Since 2010, successive UK governments have pursued policies of austerity that have been characterised by public spending and welfare cuts. There has been little research about the effects of these policies on mental health inequalities, in particular at the local level. This thesis addresses the gap in knowledge with a case study of Stockton-on-Tees, a local authority in the North East of England with high spatial and socioeconomic inequalities. A mixed methods approach has combined: a cross-sectional survey of inequalities in mental health and mental wellbeing between people from the most and least deprived areas; qualitative interviews with people experiencing mental health problems; and interviews with key stakeholders. This project is the first to include a quantitative exploration of local mental health inequalities and their determinants during the current period of austerity. The findings offer key insight into how the social conditions that people live in shape their mental health, and how austerity measures are having a damaging impact on the social landscape locally. The survey identifies a significant gap in mental health and well-being, with material and psychosocial factors underpinning this gap. The qualitative interviews then show how this gap is mirrored in the narratives and experiences of people from these contrasting neighbourhoods. Austerity measures are exacerbating inequalities in mental health by disproportionately impacting on those on the lowest incomes and in the most deprived areas, leading to increasing financial hardship and chronic stress. Services are being challenged with increasing demand, alongside fewer resources to deal with that rise in demand. The findings are discussed in relation to the continuing programme of cuts to social security and public spending in the UK, including avenues for further research and key recommendations for policy makers.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:austerity; health inequalities; mental health; welfare reform; social inequality; spatial inequality
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Geography, Department of
Thesis Date:2017
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:31 Jan 2017 12:40

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