Two-thirds of people in parts of west Dublin report mental health issues

‘The economic recovery has done little to improve mental health here’

Lack of investment in mental health services is hitting the poorest households hardest,  report finds. Photograph: iStock

Lack of investment in mental health services is hitting the poorest households hardest, report finds. Photograph: iStock

 

Two-thirds of people living in the most deprived areas of west Dublin are reporting mental health issues compared with just over half in less deprived areas, a major study has found.

The research, Physical and Mental Health in Post-Recession Ireland: A Community Study from Tallaght, Dublin, was published on Friday by the Meath Research Foundation. It draws on data from more than 350 homes across Tallaght, Dublin and is the first of its kind since the end of the recession.

It says a lack of investment in mental health services is hitting the poorest households hardest, and increasing stress in these families as a result. A care burden is also a major indicator of stress and mental ill-health.

“Despite improved employment levels generally, 66 per cent of people in deprived areas experienced stress over the last 12 months compared to just over 55 per cent in less deprived areas,” the study says.

“People with less stress were more likely to own private health insurance, be better educated and were less likely to be living with a person with a chronic illness or disability.”

Less education

Consultant psychiatrist at Tallaght University Hospital (TUH), professor Brendan Kelly, is one of the research authors. He said despite the benefits of several years of economic recovery, its benefits had “yet to be felt in deprived areas of Tallaght.

“The economic recovery has done little to improve mental health here and this is taking its toll on those in greatest need. For example, it impacts two-thirds of the population living in the deprived communities of Tallaght where people have less education, don’t own health insurance and are more likely to be living with the burden of a person with a chronic illness or disability.

“There is a clear case for strengthening community and hospital mental health services and for other social care interventions to address the very real challenges these most vulnerable communities endure in their everyday lives.”

Tallaght includes some of the most deprived areas in the State, including Kiltipper, Fettercairn, Jobstown and Killinarden each of which are described by Pobal as “very disadvantaged”, with male unemployment rates in 2016 of between 33 per cent and 60 per cent.

Unemployment

In parts of the area, more than 50 per cent of households with children are headed by lone parents, and less than 10 per cent of adults have a third-level education.

Within Jobstown and Fettercairn there are also areas of affluence, and the greater Tallaght area – which has a population of about 77,000 – has a bigger social mix, taking in such areas as Saggart, Glenview and Springfield. These are described by Pobal as “affluent”, with male unemployment rates in 2016 of about 7 per cent.

The report’s authors say it shows a “compelling need for universal access to high quality mental health services in primary care (GP) and secondary care (hospital and specialist clinics) in all communities”.

It also recommends the development of policies aimed at increasing population wellbeing and which focus on alleviating stress and carer burden, especially in deprived areas.

Future research should look into “other potential contributory factors” such as drug misuse and the positive role played by community resources.

Of the households surveyed, 52 per cent included at least one person who had used TUH for tests or treatment over the past year. The vast majority (86 per cent) were satisfied with the hospital compared to 74 per cent in 2014.