Abstract: Financial Hardships and Mental Health Crisis: An Examination of Young Adults' COVID-19 Pandemic Experiences (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

All in-person and virtual presentations are in Mountain Standard Time Zone (MST).

SSWR 2023 Poster Gallery: as a registered in-person and virtual attendee, you have access to the virtual Poster Gallery which includes only the posters that elected to present virtually. The rest of the posters are presented in-person in the Poster/Exhibit Hall located in Phoenix A/B, 3rd floor. The access to the Poster Gallery will be available via the virtual conference platform the week of January 9. You will receive an email with instructions how to access the virtual conference platform.

Financial Hardships and Mental Health Crisis: An Examination of Young Adults' COVID-19 Pandemic Experiences

Friday, January 13, 2023
Paradise Valley, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Zibei Chen, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Lisa Fedina, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, MI
Jordan DeVylder, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Fordham University, New York, NY
Catherine Lemieux, PhD, Professor, Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge, Baton Rouge, LA
Cheryl King, PhD, Professor, University of Michigan
Background and Purpose. The unprecedented financial instability triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic has alarmed researchers about the financial hardships and potential high suicide rates. Half of Americans have experienced loss in employment income and over a quarter of Americans are now experiencing housing insecurity as a result of the pandemic. Suicide rates have risen in recent years and oftentimes hit high marks when there are economic downturns. This study examines multiple financial hardships during the Covid-19 and its relationship with suicide ideation and attempts using a nationally representative sample of emerging adults.

Methods. A cross-sectional, online survey was administered in January 2021 to emerging adults 18 to 29 recruited through Qualtrics Panels (N = 1,080). Six self-report, retrospective measures of financial hardships were included. These measures assess financial strains since the start of Covid-19 around food security, housing security, bill payment, medical care and prescription, and childcare. Suicide-related outcomes included self-reported suicidal ideation and attempt in the past 12 months. Descriptive statistics and logistic regressions were used to model associations between each type of financial hardship and suicide-related outcomes, controlling for demographic and socio-economic variables.

Results. We found that during the Covid-19, 40% of our sample had experienced at least one financial hardship out of six examined. Among all hardships, most respondents had difficulty in paying bills (29.83%, n=321), followed by paying rents or mortgage (21.94%, n=235) and affording medical care (20.67%, n=223). About 15% reported difficulty paying for prescription, while about 11% couldn’t afford childcare. Bivariate analysis showed suicide ideation were significantly associated with all financial hardships except childcare hardship. Suicide attempts were associated with hardships related to bill payment, affording medical care and filing prescription. Multivariate logistic regressions controlling for demographic and socioeconomic covariates showed that cumulative financial hardships were predictive of suicide ideation (OR = 1.27, z = 4.99) as well as suicidal attempts (OR = 1.33, z = 4.58).

Conclusions and Implications. This study indicates that financial hardships triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic – including difficulties in paying bills, affording food and medical care, paying mortgage or rent – has potential to contribute to higher rates of suicide. The finding that cumulative financial hardships were significantly associated with increased suicide risks underscores the need to examine each financial strain for optimal assessment and specific prevention of suicide.