A longitudinal analysis of mental health mobility in Britain

Health Econ. 2004 Oct;13(10):981-1001. doi: 10.1002/hec.939.


This paper is concerned with quantifying the level of mental health mobility in the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS). We investigate whether the extent of intertemporal fluctuations in mental health is different across categories of socio-economic group such as income quintiles, educational attainment and social class. Our measure of mental health is the 12-item version of the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ) that serves as a self-administered screening test aimed at detecting psychiatric disorders. Using 11 waves of the BHPS and a variety of methods we show there is much mobility in mental health from one wave to the next. Further the extent of mobility varies across socio-economic categories with greatest persistence observed in more disadvantaged groups. In general, these groups suffer poorer mental health and experience more periods of ill-health. Our results have implications for the design of appropriate prevention policies targeting mental illness within different risk groups, and also for the measurement of long-term inequalities in mental health across socioeconomic groups.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility*
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / prevention & control
  • Mental Disorders / therapy
  • Mental Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Statistical
  • Social Class
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United Kingdom