Relationship between Capitalism and Mental Illness Essay

Relationship between Capitalism and Mental Illness Essay

Relationship between Capitalism and Mental Illness Essay

            With the continuously deteriorating economic and social conditions, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, depression, and anxiety are increasing. According to the survey carried out by the University of British Columbia in collaboration with the Canadian Mental Health Association in September 2020, 71% of the study participants representing the entire nation reported mental health problems, whereas 40% claimed that their mental health had declined ever since the beginning of the pandemic (Cosgrove et al., 2020).

Studies show that mental health is mainly attributed to two main interpersonal and biological factors: trauma and chemical imbalance. Hindering the conversation on mental health in this manner tends to justify the status quo of the capitalist as people bear the burden of being mentally ill and eventually take on the obligation to fix the problems that led to the illness (Sell& Williams, 2020). As such, the purpose of this paper is to evaluate the relationship between capitalism and mental illness, mainly focusing on answering the questions “is capitalism the root cause of mental illness?” and “is replacing it with socialism a viable solution?”


Relevance of the Topic

Those powerless in opposing it demonstrate capitalism’s adverse effects on mental health. For instance, institutional alienation can significantly deprive individuals of the pleasure and joy from everyday life, compelling them into a tiresome pursuit to meet their material needs at the expense of more relevant social experiences (Gidaris, 2019). Consequently, individualism and intense competition typically undermine heart-to-heart connections among humans. The persistency and constant pressure experienced by individuals in getting jobs and staying employed and lack of social support promote the development of mental stress. Furthermore, the uncertainty that individuals possess in their personal life and work usually generates anxiety, fear, loneliness, and despair that can give the person a hard time solving, hence dominating their entire life.

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Issues to Address

According to Karl Marx, capitalism has resolved the personal worth of individuals into exchange value. As such, it is essential to acknowledge that capitalism is one of the leading contributing factors towards the disproportionately elevated rates of mental health problems in advanced capitalist countries (Laliberte& Varcoe, 2021). Addressing this issue will require both individual and collective strategies to fight capitalism and promote socialism, such as people educating themselves and nurturing democracy and dialogue.

Sources of Ideas and Information

            Several sources of ideas and information will be utilized to promote knowledge and understanding of the relationship between capitalism and mental health. Such sources include peer-reviewed literature articles from sociology and medical journals, organizations’ websites like the Canadian Mental Health Association and Mental Health Commission of Canada, and surveys finding from an organization such as the National Health Service Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey, among others (Laliberte& Varcoe, 2021).

Capitalism and Socialism

Capitalism and socialism are political economy systems that refer to different schools of thought concerning their divergent scope of government intervention within the economy. A capitalistic economic paradigm refers to a free market advanced for creating wealth. The determinants of the free market are influenced by capitalistic manipulated market forces of supply and demand in the unregulated market (Hari, 2019). The economic system is known as the market economy. On the other hand, the socialist economic paradigm is a system where the government controls the creation of goods and services. It is known as the planned economy structure, where the central system of the government plans a country’s economy. In the capitalistic economy, the state does not directly employ the workforce hence the problem of unemployment in times of economic inflation and recession.

Socialistic Economy

In a socialist economy, the government is responsible for managing the economy. The economy is possessed and controlled by utilizing the creation of goods and services. The primary concern of the socialist system is the desire for equity in the division of wealth. The equal division of wealth ensures all members of a society have an equal opportunity to attain specific economic outcomes. This explains the intervention of the government in the labor market. During the economic recession, the government or the state can order for employment; thus, there is full employment (Hari, 2019).

The Relationship between Capitalism and Mental Illness

There exists a clear link between social and economic inequality and poor mental health. There is a social gradient in mental health, and higher levels of income inequality are linked to a higher prevalence of mental illness. A low socioeconomic status individual is associated with more frequent mental health problems. People of the most subordinate social-economic status are estimated to be more likely to have a mental disorder than those with the highest social-economic rate (Hari, 2019). Moreover, income could be the essential social determinant of health. Level of income shapes overall living conditions affects psychological functioning, and influences health-related behaviors such as quality of diet, the extent of physical activity, smoking, and excessive alcohol use.

The social determinants of mental health increase the risk for and prevalence of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. Those living with a behavioral health disorder complicate the course and worsen outcomes. The following scholars allude to the same school of thought. Mishel and Kandra (2020) posit that capitalism has extrapolated inequality and worsened the living condition by heightening the cost of living for millions of people around the globe. They argue that despite the high cost of living occasioned by economic disparities, employees’ remunerations have stagnated, forcing workers to spend long hours working to cover their high cost of living spending. Similarly, capitalistic regimes’ lowered financing for social welfare has spiraled mental illness. In addition, the lack of funding for the ordinary and needed welfare programs has resulted in distress hence escalating substance and drug misuse, leading to mental illness. In extreme cases, it leads to suicides and homicides (Mishel & Kandra, 2020).

Case and Deaton (2020) allude that from the early nineteen eighties, economic strategies advanced by capitalistic economist has seen the mushrooming of open markets and increased public spending translating to wealth disparities, job losses, and employment insecurity that has promoted emotional breakdown (Case & Deaton, 2020). Moreover, the social ideologies, economic policies, and regulations advanced by the proponents of capitalism only favor individuals with colossal capital and financial power. Their strategies have led to materialism, unfair competition, anti-humanity in terms of social need. The trend has created worry and deep depression leading to unbalanced mental stability. In addition, the economically underprivileged people in society cannot get mental health treatment (Case & Deaton, 2020). This is due to high costs set by healthcare providers, who are in the profit-making business, resulting in medicalized distress and depression.

Studies show that many mental conditions are attributed to social-economic determinants. Individuals having low social-economic power have anxiety and depression leading to mental health problems. As such, poverty underscores the argument that reinforces the school of thought that the extrapolation of mental health illness results from increased economic inequality, less welfare program funding, and stagnation. Similarly, scholars like Wilkinson and Pickett (2011) also posit that countries with higher economic disparities have increased mental illness cases compared with countries with lower economic inequality. In addition, researchers agree that counties experiencing a high level of inequality have increased drug and substance abuse cases compared to countries with less economic inequality. Furthermore, it is proven that wider differences in social and economic disparities result in social class; hence class competition that increases emotional stress. Hari (2019) argues that capitalism has led to the loss of substantial job opportunities for both the middle and the upper class, hence leading to increased mental illness (Hari, 2019).

Many developed counties like the United States do not have job security as the majority work under short-term periods. The state of no meaningful job opportunities, instability creates a lack of cohesion in the society with an increased rate of mental illness. When workers cannot have control of their employment and the apparent lack of job opportunity, depression and anxiety surge the rate of mental illness and the soaring of death cases. In addition, families are broken, and marriages flop, creating and leading miserable, distressed people that up in drug abuse or suicides. Hari (2019) alludes that loneliness is a factor for depression (Hari, 2019). Similarly, he also attributes social and economic disadvantages, lack of life’s necessities, debt, and poor housing to challenges leading to mental illness.


Capitalism has created individualism and materialism, so communal and unified participation in the community has completely disappeared. The situation has led to competitiveness and depending on the wealthy, which leads to disappointments attributed to social status effects and feelings (Case & Deaton, 2020).They note that social cohesion and positive relations only exist in egalitarian countries. Further, studies also indicate that individuals who believe that materialistic value impact happiness got anxiety and depression about how they can increase their wealth accumulation. Individuals led by intense desire to acquire wealth hardly have lasting, meaningful relationships, hence tend to be unhappy. The state of unhappiness leads to mental disorders (Hari, 2019). Evidence indicates that debt, financial difficulties, and housing payment problems are mental health conditions. The impact of economic crises factors has led to mental health problems. The more debt people have, the more likely they have mental disorders overall.

According to the CDC, the rates of mental illness increased in the last fifteen years in the United States. It is indicated that life expectancy fell because of deaths from suicide, opioid abuse, and alcoholic liver disease, causing death from despair in life. Moreover, studies show that capitalistic policies and ideologies have played a role in increasing mental illness. It is posited by Case and Deaton (2020) that the guidelines have led to income inequality, the disempowerment of employees, inadequate social services and mass incarceration, and an expensive and ineffective healthcare system (Case &Deaton., 2020).

According to Davies (2017), he argues that capitalism increases distress and contributes to the escalating rates of psychiatric disorders. It also tyrannizes how diagnosis and treatment of mental anguish are made. Similarly, he notes that healthcare has been undertaken by applying profit-making ideology so that the profitability also guides even the pharmaceutical industry. Furthermore, in a capitalist system, health care is deemed a commodity to be purchased. It is not a social right; thus, the outcome of such principle is disproportionate to access to medical services so that the poor, the unemployed, or under-employed have no access to healthcare that again extrapolates the effects. Ill health is considered a chief contributor to poverty; poor people hardly have access to healthcare and therefore have worse outcomes (Case & Deaton., 2020). Poor health is also a significant contributor to poverty since healthcare has capitalistically been costly.

Other scholars have associated capitalism with suffering. In addition, capitalism has been described as the pleasure of goods, the enjoyment of commodities, flamboyant consumption, meaningful life, and massing of wealth. It portrays an individualistic and materialistic nature of life that is not concerned about other human beings (Unveren, 2021).The materialists are not happy men. They have been noted to be very depressed and suffer from mental disorders.

We conclusively say that capitalism is the root cause of mental illness. Without a doubt, human suffering can be traced to the non-humanistic capitalist system. According to the studies cited, it’s shown that many mental conditions are attributed to social-economic determinants. Moreover, individuals with low social-economic means often have anxiety and depression related to the high cost of living, thus leading to mental health conditions (Unveren, 2021).

Replacing Capitalism with Socialism a Viable Solution

To mitigate mental illness, one needs to value himself and treat themselves with kindness and respect. It is only in the socialistic system that such can be guaranteed. In the capitalistic world, there is no kindness. It is competition and struggles for the commodities and manipulation of the market forces to favor the wealthy. Capitalism has heightened the high cost of living and occasioned economic disparities; employees’ wages have remained the same while forcing people to work for long hours to cover their high cost of living expenditure (Unveren, 2021).

The stressful and depression lead to mental illness, which leads to suicides and homicides. In addition, to address mental illness, it is advised to associate with good people. Good people are not capitalists; the good people are those who share their things communally (Mishel & Kandra, 2020).The primary concern of the socialist system is the desire for equity in the division of wealth. The equal division of wealth ensures all members of a society have an equal opportunity to attain specific economic outcomes, not one for himself and God for us all (Unveren, 2021).In addition, to mitigate mental illness, one need to have a quiet mind. That quite a mind only exists in the socialistic system, knowing that you will have food on the table, get medical services, and send your child to school. On the contrary, capitalism is about individualism and materialism, the massing up of wealth regardless of other people’s conditions. Thus, it can be underscored that the root course of mental illness is capitalism and the panacea to the mental illness is the adoption of the socialistic economic system.


In the current world, the economic, political, and social crises tend to deepen due to capitalism contributing to the deteriorated mental health of powerless individuals. The effects of capitalism have extrapolated inequality and worsened the living condition by heightening the cost of living for millions of people. Similarly, the capitalistic regimes’ lowered financing for social welfare has spiraled mental illness; the lack of funding for the ordinary and needed welfare programs has resulted in distress, hence escalating substance and drug misuse, leading to mental illness. Further, studies have shown that many mental conditions are attributed to social-economic determinants. The individual having low social-economic power have anxiety and depression leading to mental health problems. On the contrary, the primary concern of the socialist system is the desire for equity in the division of wealth. The equal division of wealth ensures all members of a society have an equal opportunity to attain specific economic outcomes, including health care. As such, it is essential for individuals to acknowledge capitalism as the leading cause of mental illness and that it is necessary to replace it with socialism.


Cosgrove, L., Karter, J. M., Morrill, Z., & McGinley, M. (2020). Psychology and surveillance capitalism: The risk of pushing mental health apps during the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of Humanistic Psychology60(5), 611-625.

Gidaris, C. (2019). Surveillance capitalism, datafication, and unwaged labor: the rise of wearable fitness devices and interactive life insurance. Surveillance & Society17(1/2), 132-138.

Hari, J. (2019). Lost Connections: Why You’re Depressed and How to Find Hope. Bloomsbury .

Laliberte, S., & Varcoe, C. (2021). The contradictions between Canadian capitalist processes and youth mental health: Implications for mental health promotion. Health promotion international36(1), 250-261.

Mishel, L., & Kandra, J. (2020). CEO compensation surged 14% in 2019 to $21.3 million. Economic Policy Institute.

Sell, S. K., & Williams, O. D. (2020). Health under capitalism: a global political economy of structural pathogenesis. Review of International Political Economy27(1), 1-25.

Unveren, B. (2021). Robots, capitalism, and socialism. Available at SSRN 3780943.



LSO 120: Research Essay Instruction – Winter, 2022
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