Maternal depression and economic well-being: A quasi-experimental approach

Publication Year


Journal Article

Maternal depression is associated with adverse impacts on the health of women and their children. However, further evidence is needed on the extent to which maternal depression influences women's economic well-being and how unmeasured confounders affect estimates of this relationship. In this study, we aimed to measure the association between maternal depression and economic outcomes (income, employment, and material hardship) over a 15-year time horizon. We conducted longitudinal analyses using the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, an urban birth cohort study in the United States. We assessed the potential contribution of time-invariant unmeasured confounders using a quasi-experimental approach and also investigated the role of persistent versus transient depressive symptoms on economic outcomes up to 15 years after childbirth. In models that adjusted for time-invariant unmeasured confounders, maternal depression was associated with not being employed (an adjusted risk difference of 3 percentage points (95% CI 0.01 to 0.05)) and experiencing any material hardship (an adjusted risk difference of 14 percentage points (95% CI 0.12 to 0.16)), as well as with reductions in the ratio of household income to poverty by 0.10 units (95% CI -0.16 to -0.04) and annual household income by $2114 (95% CI -$3379 to -$850). Impacts at year 15 were strongest for those who experienced persistent depression. Results of our study strengthen the case for viewing mental health support services as interventions that may also foster economic well-being, and highlight the importance of including economic impacts in assessments of the cost-effectiveness of mental health interventions.

Social Science and Medicine