The role of hardship in the association between socio-economic position and depression




Butterworth, P.
Olesen, S. C.
Leach, L. S.

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SAGE Publications


OBJECTIVE: It is well established that socio-economic position is associated with depression. The experience of financial hardship, having to go without the essentials of daily living due to limited financial resources, may explain the effect. However, there are few studies examining the link between financial hardship and diagnosable depression at a population level. The current paper addresses this gap and also evaluates the moderating effect of age. METHOD: Data were from 8841 participants aged 16–85 years in Australia’s 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing. The 12-month prevalence of depressive episode was assessed using the Composite International Diagnostic Interview. Measures of socio-economic position included: financial hardship, education, labour-force status, occupational skill, household income, main source of income, and area-level disadvantage. RESULTS: Financial hardship was more strongly associated with depression than other socio-economic variables. Hardship was more strongly associated with current depression than with prior history of depression. The relative effect of hardship was strongest in late adulthood but the absolute effect of hardship was greatest in middle age. CONCLUSIONS: The results demonstrate the critical role of financial hardship in the association between socio-economic disadvantage and 12-month depressive episode, and suggest that social and economic policies that address inequalities in living standards may be an appropriate way to reduce the burden attributable to depression.



Adolescent, Adult, Aged, Australia, Depression, Educational Status, Female, Health Surveys, Humans, Income, Male, Middle Aged, Occupations, Poverty, Prevalence, Socioeconomic Factors, Epidemiology, Hardship, Socio-economic status



Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry


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