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Video: Low-cost interventions could help combat the ‘psychological poverty trap’

People who struggle to support their basic needs—and those of their families—might feel a sense of fear and hopelessness. For some, that emotional distress results in mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression, which leave them vulnerable to even greater financial struggles.

Psychologists and economists have sought to understand the mechanisms behind these vicious cycles, or “psychological poverty traps,” as they’re called in a recent review in Science. The paper’s authors examined how government welfare programs and changes in climate impacted the prevalence of depression and suicide, especially in developing countries, such as Indonesia. They also delved into randomized, controlled trials of low-cost mental health interventions in Pakistan and India, and how they affected people’s employment and spending decisions.

This animated video illustrates the studies featured in the review, which indicate that changes in policy—such as training counselors to treat impoverished adults with depression—can help reduce mental and financial hardship.