Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

, Volume 53, Issue 9, pp 977–986 | Cite as

The impact of economic recessions on depression and individual and social well-being: the case of Spain (2006–2013)

  • C. Chaves
  • T. Castellanos
  • M. Abrams
  • Carmelo Vazquez
Original Paper



Although there is abundant evidence about the impact of economic crises on depression and other mental health problems, little is known about the protective role of variables linked to positive functioning (i.e., psychological well-being).


We analyzed data from Spain, one of the European countries most affected by the 2008–2013 economic recession, collected in Round 3 (R3, 2006) and Round 6 (R6, 2013) of the European Social Survey interviews. Both surveys included measures of psychological well-being, social well-being and depression. Both samples were nationally representative of the general population (R3: 1877 participants, 49.2% men; R6: 1889 participants, 48.9% men).


Data from the R6 survey showed that, compared to data gathered in R3 (i.e., before the onset of the recession) Spanish citizens showed significantly less life satisfaction (95% CIs 0.37–0.63), less personal optimism (95% CIs 0.03–0.15), less social optimism (95% CIs 0.75–0.85), and higher levels of depressive symptoms (95% CIs − 0.74 to − 0.19). Structural equation modeling revealed that protective factors for depression changed in both rounds. In R3 (2006), close relationships, social optimism and social trust were significant mediators between well-being and depression. However, social optimism and social trust were no longer significant in R6 (2013), whereas close relationships remained a partial mediator of the effects of psychological well-being on depression.


Economic crises are associated with a significant increase in depressive symptoms. Furthermore, financial crises seem to have a corrosive impact on mental health by reducing the mediating effects of positive beliefs regarding the good nature of society.


Depression Economic issues Mental health Social factors Population survey Stressful life events 


Compliance with ethical standards

Financial support

This research received no specific grant from any funding agency, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

Conflict of interest

Authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical standards

The authors assert that all procedures contributing to this work comply with the ethical standards of the relevant national and institutional committees on human experimentation and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2008.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (JPG 60 KB)
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Supplementary material 2 (JPG 80 KB)
127_2018_1558_MOESM3_ESM.docx (428 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (DOCX 427 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Clinical Psychology, School of PsychologyComplutense University of MadridMadridSpain
  2. 2.School of Health SciencesFrancisco de Vitoria UniversityMadridSpain

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