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A new study finds that low-paid workers who received the national minimum wage in April 1999 reported a decline in symptoms of depression for at least 22 months afterwards.

Effect of national minimum wage similar to prescribing antidepressants

Photo: shutterstock.

Through statistically modelling, researchers found a significant improvement in the overall level of mental health in those receiving the national minimum wage equivalent to the effect of taking antidepressants. The paper, published in the journal Health Economics, concludes that wage rises for low-paid workers reduce feelings of anxiety and depression partly, at least, because they are under less financial strain. 

The study is led by the University of Oxford, with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; the Erasmus University Medical Centre in Rotterdam, Netherlands; and the University of Liverpool. It examines changes in health among those earning less than £3.60 an hour in 1998 after they receive an hourly wage of between £3.60 and £4.00 due to the introduction of the national minimum wage in 1999. This created a rare so-called natural experiment because some workers received the wage increase but others did not (either because they already received the national minimum wage or were slightly above, or because their employers did not comply). The researchers used this natural experiment study design to compare workers' health before and after their wage rise with other low-paid workers whose wages did not increase at the time.

Read more on the University website (opens new window)