Mental Health, Resilience, and Inequalities

Author(s):*Listed Alphabetically
Friedli L

Year of Publication:

World Health Organisation

Publication Type:


This report explores the wealth of evidence that mental health influences a very wide range of outcomes for individuals and communities. These include healthier lifestyles; better physical health; improved recovery from illness; fewer limitations in daily living; higher educational attainment; greater productivity, employment and earnings; better relationships with adults and with children; more social cohesion and engagement and improved quality of life. These outcomes are not just or necessarily a consequence of the absence of mental illness, but are associated with the presence of positive mental health, sometimes referred to as ‘wellbeing’. Improving mental health is a worthwhile goal in itself: most people value a sense of emotional and social wellbeing; in addition, good mental health has many other far reaching benefits.

This report also highlights the importance of policies and programmes to support improved mental health for the whole population. Priorities for action include:
– social, cultural and economic conditions that support family and community life
– education that equips children to flourish both economically and emotionally
– employment opportunities and workplace pay and conditions that promote and protect mental health
– partnerships between health and other sectors, such as the arts, to address social and economic problems that are a catalyst for psychological distress
– reducing policy and environmental barriers to social contact.

While there is much that can be done to improve mental health, doing so will depend less on specific interventions, valuable as these may be, and more on a policy sea change, in which policy makers across all sectors think in terms of ‘mental health impact’. It is already evident that the relentless pursuit of economic growth is not environmentally sustainable. Current economic and fiscal strategies for growth may also be undermining family and community relationships: economic growth at the cost of social recession. This means that at the heart of questions concerning ‘mental health impact’ is the need to protect or recreate opportunities for communities to remain or become connected.

Mental health underpins the social and intellectual skills that will be needed to meet the new challenges of the 21st century. The limitations of consumerism are being more widely reflected upon, especially in relation to children and family life and the basis of civic society. Individual and collective mental health and wellbeing will depend on reducing the gap between rich and poor. At the same time, reducing inequality is not a sufficient policy response, important as that is. What is also needed is a shift in consciousness and a recognition that mental health is a precious resource to be promoted and protected at all levels of policy and practice.

Evidence Type: Literature Review

Main Focus: Wellbeing / Quality of life

Research Purpose: Discussion / Debate

Context: Community

Art Forms: Multi-Arts

Access Type: Free Download

APA Citation:

Friedli, L. (2009). Mental Health, Resilience and Inequalities. Geneva: World Health Organization.