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Public perceptions of the effectiveness of income provision on reducing psychological distress

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Daniel Nettle


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© 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited. Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to understand public perceptions of the role of income for improving mental health, since public perceptions shape political decision-making. Socioeconomic determinants such as poverty cause a great deal of mental ill-health, yet it is not clear whether the general public believes this to be true. Lay understandings of health often overemphasize the roles of individual habits and medical treatments and underappreciate the importance of socioeconomic determinants. Design/methodology/approach: UK adults (n = 622) rated effectiveness of three interventions for reducing psychological distress: medication, psychotherapy, and providing sufficient income to cover necessities via a basic income. We manipulated whether participants rated effectiveness for an identified individual vs. the population in general. Participants also indicated their support for the introduction of the basic income scheme. Findings: Increasing income was rated highly effective for reducing psychological distress. Effectiveness ratings for income provision were as high as those for psychotherapy, and higher than those for medication. There was also an interaction with framing: in the population framing, income provision was rated more effective than either of the other two interventions. There were high levels of support for introducing a universal basic income scheme in this population. Originality/value: UK adults anticipate that income provision would be highly effective at reducing psychological distress, as or more effective than increasing access to psychotherapy or medication. Policymakers can assume that the public will be receptive to arguments for mental health interventions that tackle broader socioeconomic determinants, especially when these are framed in population terms.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Bridger E, Nettle D

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Public Mental Health

Year: 2022

Pages: Epub ahead of print

Online publication date: 17/06/2022

Acceptance date: 02/04/2018

ISSN (print): 1746-5729

ISSN (electronic): 2042-8731

Publisher: Emerald Group Holdings Ltd


DOI: 10.1108/JPMH-04-2022-0036


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