Antunes, A., Frasquilho, D., Zózimo, J. R., Silva, M., Cardoso, G., Ferrão, J., Caldas-de-Almeida, J. M.
Background: The 2008 economic recession has been shown to affect populations’ mental health due to deterioration of socioeconomic and living conditions. Concurrently, mental health problems may have constituted a vulnerability to wider social inequalities during this period. Aims: To explore perceptions and experiences of primary health care users and professionals regarding the relationship between mental health and socioeconomic position during the economic recession in Portugal. Method: Data were collected in three primary health care centres in Lisbon Metropolitan Area. Focus groups and semi-structured interviews were conducted with users and professionals, respectively. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and underwent thematic analysis. Results: Two themes were obtained. The first comprised the relationship between changes in socioeconomic conditions (unemployment, precarious work conditions and financial hardship) and poor mental health. The second involved the consequences of experiencing mental health problems during the recession, namely disability, need of sick leave and early retirement. Conclusions: This study provided a comprehensive overview of the bidirectional relationship between socioeconomic conditions and mental health, emphasizing the need to develop policies to address the drivers of poor mental health during times of economic downturn and tackle the barriers faced by people with mental disorders to promote their full social inclusion.