The Urban Institute compared women with children younger than 6 and found higher rates of major depression and untreated depression among those in low-income families, according to results published last week.
Analyzing results from a recent federal survey, the researchers found "that 8.8 percent of all low-income mothers with young children experienced a major depressive episode in the past year, compared with 6.8 percent of higher income mothers." A third of the depressed low-income mothers did not receive any treatment, compared to only a quarter of higher-income mothers.
"We were able to show that one in 11 low-income mothers with children under 6 have had major depression in the last year. That’s something to worry about," said Marla McDaniel, the Urban Institute's lead author for this study. "We're talking 756,000 low-income moms."
The national study is the latest in a series
focused on linking depressed mothers with treatment services. Authors noted that the treatment rate was better among low-income mothers if they had Medicaid or other publicly subsidized forms of health insurance. They hoped Medicaid expansion under the federal Affordable Care Act would address the problem of untreated maternal depression as a result.
The consequences of untreated depression in mothers show up in their children, McDaniel said. "They have added challenges just dealing with poverty alone. But among the one out of 11 moms who have had major depression in the last year, about 70 percent of them had symptoms that were so severe that it made daily functioning extremely difficult. We know that affects kids and can effect them for a long time."
Studies have found that untreated depression in mothers can slow the emotional and cognitive development of children. Untreated depression in pregnant women has likewise been linked to a higher risk of babies born at low birthweights.