Skip to main content

Mental Health Therapy as a Core Strategy for Increasing Human Capital: Evidence from Ghana (WP-21-47)

Nathan Baker, Gharad Bryan, Dean Karlan, Angela Ofori-Atta, and Christopher Udry

The researchers study the impact of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for individuals selected from the general population of poor households in rural Ghana. Results from 2–3 months after a randomized intervention show strong impacts on mental and physical health, cognitive and socioemotional skills, and downstream economic outcomes. The authors find no evidence of heterogeneity by baseline mental distress; they argue that this is because CBT can improve human capital for a general population of poor individuals through two pathways. First, CBT reduces vulnerability to deteriorating mental health; and second, CBT directly improves bandwidth, increasing cognitive and socioemotional skills and hence economic outcomes.

Nathan Barker, Department of Economics, Yale University

Gharad Bryan, Lecturer in Economics, London School of Economics

Dean Karlan, Frederic Esser Nemmers Chair, Professor of Economics and Finance, and IPR Associate, Northwestern University

Angela Ofori-Atta, Associate Professor, School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Ghana

Christopher Udry, Robert E. and Emily King Professor of Economics and IPR Associate, Northwestern University

Download PDF