Dissertation Spotlight: Essays in the Economics of Mental Health

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected millions of people across the United States. One of the rising concerns across the nation is mental health and mental illness. Over the course of the pandemic, mental illness cases have risen tremendously. The researcher states that one in five adults experience mental illness but less than half of those cases will seek out treatment. The pandemic has caused these statistics to increase even more. In this dissertation, Magee addresses a connection between mental health and economic concerns within these two problems: ‘the economic finding of a bidirectional causal relationship between mental health and economic outcomes and the psychiatric finding that mental-wellness focused smartphone applications are effective.’ Applications, also referred to as apps, are cost effective and adaptable. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the use of these mental health applications to diminish in use. 

The researcher poses the question: ‘Can we leverage mental wellness apps to improve economic outcomes?’ The researcher states that there is a clear relationship between mental health and economic outcomes. Magee conducted multiple controlled trials with variables to find an exact answer to the question. The results of the testing are, if the mental health applications implement privacy ratings, this would lead consumers to be more inclined to choose the applications that have the most privacy ratings. In return, this will increase profits made from the application and increase social welfare. 

In response to the second trial, Magee states that offering three dollars to the population that downloads the application will not increase productivity for the apps and will not have an effect on the individual’s mental state. On the contrary, the high-productivity consumers will see an increase worth $20 per individual. After all of the research, Magee concluded that there is no definitive answer to the question and more research will need to be conducted.

Magee then led the research to investigate the influence of gender-identity-related social stigma regarding health and work results of mental wellbeing issues. Magee utilizes the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) data which comes from the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The researcher brings in other aspects to the trials that would affect this concept, including demographic characteristics and physical health of an individual. 

The researcher ultimately concludes that mental wellbeing is a crucial component of economic correlation. This dissertation continues to investigate the connection and correlation between mental illness and economics as this research is important to gain economic knowledge.

Dr. Ellis Magee received his PhD in Economics from FSU in 2021.

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