Depression, Substance Abuse Linked to Lower Socioeconomic Status

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Young adults that have depression combined with a substance abuse problem are much more likely to have a lower socioeconomic status and be unemployed compared with people without either condition.

Rada K. Dagher, PhD, and Kerry M. Green, PhD, both of the School of Public Health at the University of Maryland, examined data from the Woodlawn Study, which looked at a group of African-American children in inner-city Chicago beginning as young children in the late 1960s through young adulthood and midlife.

Overall, 7.1% of those examined experienced both substance abuse and depression, 8.6% had depression without substance abuse, and 11.9% had substance abuse without depression. And having depression and a substance abuse problem increased the likelihood of being unemployed for three months or more and having a lower household income in midlife than those who had neither mental disorder, the researchers reported in the journal Psychiatric Research.

Comorbid substance abuse and mental health disorders impacts about nine million people each year, according to Dagher.

“Policymakers interested in decreasing socioeconomic disparities could target resources towards interventions aimed to reduce depression and substance abuse comorbidity among minority populations,” the authors wrote. They also recommend additional research on comorbid mental disorders, rather than looking at each disorder separately.

There are benefits in integrated treatment for depression and substance abuse. A recent study found that treating depression and substance abuse together led to a decrease in aggressive behavior in individuals.

Depression, Substance Abuse Linked to Lower Socioeconomic Status
Depression, Substance Abuse Linked to Lower Socioeconomic Status

Studies have established a graded association between mental health and socioeconomic status (SES). However, scarce research has examined the impact of substance use disorders (SUD) and depression comorbidity on SES.

We use data from the Woodlawn Study, a longitudinal cohort study, which recruited a cohort of first graders from Chicago starting 1966–1967 (n=1,242). Analyses focus on those interviewed in young adulthood and followed up through midlife. Regression analyses adjusting for childhood confounders showed that young adults with depression and SUD comorbidity had higher likelihood of having any periods of unemployment, higher likelihood of being unemployed for 3 or more months, and lower household income in midlife than those with neither disorder.

Moreover, young adults with SUD without depression had higher odds of having any periods of unemployment and higher odds of being unemployed for 3 or more months than those with neither disorder.

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