Wealth does not equal mental health?

July 27, 2011

According to a new cross-national survey published in BMC Medicine, people living in wealthier counties are more likely to have experienced a depressive episode than those living in low and middle-income countries.

89,000 people in 18 countries were surveyed for major depressive episodes using a standardized set of questions. Approximately 15 percent of those living in 10 high-income nations reported having at least one depressive episode in their lifetime, The Huffington Post reports. For lower-income countries, the incidence was 11 percent.

No matter the location, it was found that women are almost twice as likely to experience depression. In wealthier countries, low-income respondents have double the risk of experiencing a depressive episode.

According to the research team:

“On one level, it seems counterintuitive that people in high-income countries should experience more stress than those in low- to middle-income countries. However, it has been suggested that depression is to some extent an illness of affluence.”

The countries found to have the highest prevalence of a depressive episode are:

  1. France– 21 %
  2. United States– 19.2 %
  3. Brazil– 18.4 %

The countries found to have the lowest incidence are:

  1. Mexico– 8 %
  2. India– 9 %
  3. South Africa– 9.8%

Lead study author Dr. Evelyn Bromet, a professor of psychiatry at State University of New York at Stony Brook, says the fact that the same interview was used in all 18 countries is a potential weakness of the study. The standardized questions may not capture depression as well in low-income countries where mental health is not as widely discussed and where citizens may be less likely to open up to a foreign interviewer.

To see the full list, click here.


Wealth, White Women, and Cancer

March 25, 2011

A new study published in the Archives of Dermatology finds the rate of melanoma for women between the ages of 15 and 39 is highest among those who earn the most.

The study was focused on non-Hispanic white women, a demographic that has seen a dramatic increase in the rate of melanoma. Using data from the California Cancer Registry, the U.S. Census and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the researchers looked at 3,800 women who had been diagnosed with 3,842 cases of malignant melanoma. The data was examined in two time periods, 1988 to 1992 and 1998 to 2002.

The Los Angeles Times reports the following findings:

  • Teens and women in the top 20% of socioeconomic status (SES) were six times more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma than their counterparts in the bottom 20%.
  • Among teens and women who lived in neighborhoods with the most UV radiation exposure, the rate of melanoma diagnosis was 73% higher for those in the top 20% of SES compared with those in the bottom 20%.
  • Among teens and women who lived in neighborhoods with a middling amount of UV exposure, the rate of melanoma diagnosis was nearly three times higher for those in the top 20% of SES compared with those in the bottom 20%.
  • For teens and women in the bottom 40% of SES, melanoma rates were essentially flat over the course of the study. For all other groups, the rate of diagnosis rose between the 1998-1992 period and the 1998-2002 period.

The researchers explain that it’s likely women with higher incomes participate in more activities that expose them to UV rays, including beach vacations, visiting tanning salons, or simply more outside leisure time.

The study is available here.


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