CHANCES: Poverty reduction, mental health and the chances of young people: understanding mechanisms through analyses from 6 low- and middle-income countries

Poverty and mental health are closely linked. In low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), young people in poverty have a high risk of developing or maintaining mental health problems. The stress and environmental conditions associated with poverty increase the risk of mental health problems. Additionally, the disability and high costs faced by people with mental illness can maintain poverty.

Currently, most evaluations of antipoverty interventions focus on socioeconomic or general well-being outcomes, but rarely examine the effects on mental health. At the same time, the main focus in the field of global mental health has been to improve access to treatment, but with little focus on the impact of interventions on future life chances and poverty.

This study aims to (1) understand the mental health impact of antipoverty policies and (2) how mental health interventions influence the life chances and risk of poverty amongst young people. To do this, we will use multiple interdisciplinary methods to understand the costs and the impact of potential interventions and associated pathways to improved life chances. We will analyse seven different datasets from six low- and middle-income countries.

We will also collect qualitative data from interviews and focus groups with young people from economically deprived circumstances. Qualitative data will provide information on: (i) experiences and meaning of poverty and mental health problems, (ii) personal experiences of being involved in antipoverty programmes or receiving mental health interventions, (iii) challenges or barriers to engaging with the antipoverty and mental health interventions and (iv) ideas for future interventions.

Additionally, from the start of the project, we will work together with community members: young people from deprived circumstances, service users, health practitioners and policymakers. Workshops will help us to gather insights into how our findings can be used to develop and test new interventions, for example by combining mental health and poverty programmes.

Mental health problems are common among young people from economically deprived circumstances in LMICs and it is known that experience of poverty and mental health problems can have long lasting effects into adulthood. Providing more effective intervention during this period could be help reduce the impact of poverty and / or prevent mental health problems early in life, thus increasing future life chances, including opportunities for education and employment.

CGMH team involved:

Dr Sara Evans-Lacko (Principal Investigator)

Prof Ricardo Araya

Prof Mauricio Avendano

Prof Crick Lund

Project Partners

London School of Economics & Political Science

King's College London

Universidad de Los Andes

Universidade de Sao Paulo

Universidade Presbiteriana Mackenzie

University of Cape Town


Economic and Social Research Council