Using longitudinal data before and during the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic for a representative sample of Dutch households, we examined the role of financial stress, defined as the subjective experience of lacking financial resources to cope with demands, in mental health changes. Also, we examined financial stress and mental health relations with households' income, savings, and debts. The data revealed that average mental health did not change during the first six months of the pandemic but showed considerable underlying heterogeneity. Results showed that financial stress changes significantly explained this heterogeneity. Increases in financial stress predicted decreases in mental health, whereas decreases in financial stress predicted increases in mental health. While income did not explain financial stress changes, fewer savings and more debts were related to increased financial stress, which was, in turn, negatively related to mental health. We discuss the implications of our findings for mental health care and financial security policy and provide suggestions for future research.
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