Which socio-economic measures are associated with psychological distress for men and women? A cohort analysis.

Research paper by Ida I Linander, Anne A Hammarström, Klara K Johansson

Indexed on: 31 Aug '14Published on: 31 Aug '14Published in: European journal of public health


There are contradictory results regarding whether there is a social gradient in common mental disorders or not, or if this relation differs for different indicators or by gender. We analysed the relation between various measures of socio-economic position and later psychological distress among men and women in a Swedish context.The study is based on data from the Northern Swedish Cohort (N = 1001, 93.5% response rate), a 27-year prospective study. Logistic regression was used to explore the relation between various indicators of socio-economic position at age 30 (occupation, education, financial strain, cash margin, unemployment and living primarily on social welfare or unemployment insurance) and psychological distress (age 42), controlling for earlier psychological distress (age 21) and parental occupational class. Register data were used to measure unemployment. All other variables were self-reported, and measured by a questionnaire.Financial strain and living on social welfare or unemployment insurance at age 30 were associated with psychological distress at age 42 for men and women. Poor cash margin and unemployment were only associated with psychological distress in women, after controlling for potential confounders. Low occupational class and low education were not significantly related to later psychological distress.The two most commonly used measures of socio-economic position, occupation and education, were not significantly associated with psychological distress while other, less studied measures were. This study highlights the importance of measuring socio-economic position in several ways when studying common mental disorders, as well as to take gender into account.