Job insecurity and the threat of unemployment have led to a decline in mental health across the UK, according to a report from the Medical Research Council in Glasgow.
The authors claimed that men appeared to be worst affected and said the onset of the economic downturn could be considered a "threat to public health".
Their findings, published in the online journal BMJ Open, show that rates of poor mental health were highest between 1991 and 1993, when the UK was in recession, after which they fell steadily until 2004.
The rates then started to gradually rise until 2008, at which point they rose sharply.
During that year, when the downturn began, the prevalence of people suffering from anxiety and depression was 13.7%, but the figure rose to 16.4% in 2009.
Men appeared to be worst affected. The rate of poor mental health in men rose from 11.3% in 2008 to 16.6% in 2009. In women, the rate only increased by 0.2%, to 16.2%.
The authors concluded: "The finding that mental health across the general population has deteriorated following the recession's onset, and (that) this association does not appear to be limited to those out of employment nor those whose household income has declined, has important implications.
"Previous research has highlighted the importance of job insecurity, rather than solely employment status, as potentially resulting in adverse effects on mental health.
"One potential explanation for our results would be that job insecurity during the current recession is responsible for the deterioration in mental health, with men's psychological health remaining more affected by economic fluctuations despite greater female labour market participation."
Dr Amy Chandler, research fellow at the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships at the University of Edinburgh, said: "This new analysis provides further support to theories that suggest that men - more than women - might be affected negatively by unstable job markets and rising prices.
"An interesting addition to current knowledge is the authors' finding that this decline in mental health was also apparent among men who were employed, whereas previously much has been made of the association between unemployment and poor mental health among men.
"This suggests that there should be acknowledgement that recession can impact negatively upon men in general, whether in employment or not."
The authors, who wanted to examine whether the recession had an impact on levels of anxiety and depression, analysed data concerning 107,000 people taken from the annual Health Survey for England for adults aged 25 to 64, between 1991 and 2010.