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Inter-generational longitudinal study of social class and depression: A test of social causation and social selection models

  • Jennifer E. B. Ritsher (a1), Virginia Warner (a1), Jeffrey G. Johnson (a1) and Bruce P. Dohrenwend (a1)
Abstract
Background

Generations of epidemiologists have documented an association between low socio-economic status (SES) and depression (variously defined), but debate continues as to which is the causative factor.

Aims

To test the extent to which social causation (low SES causing depression) and social selection (depression causing low SES) processes are in evidence in an inter-generational longitudinal study.

Method

Participants (n=756) were interviewed up to four times over 17 years using the Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia (SADS).

Results

Low parental education was associated with increased risk for offspring depression, even after controlling for parental depression, offspring gender and offspring age. Neither parental nor offspring depression predicted later levels of offspring occupation, education or income.

Conclusion

There is evidence for an effect of parental SES on offspring depression (social causation) but not for an effect of either parental or offspring depression on offspring SES (social selection).

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Copyright
Corresponding author
Dr Jennifer E. B. Ritsher, Center for Health Care Evaluation, VA Helath Care System (152) and Stanford University School of Medicine, 795 Willow Road, Menlo Park, CA 94025, USA. e-mail: jennifer@ritsher.net
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Declaration of interest

No conflict of interest. Funding is detailed in Acknowledgements.

Footnotes
References
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The British Journal of Psychiatry
  • ISSN: 0007-1250
  • EISSN: 1472-1465
  • URL: /core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry
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Inter-generational longitudinal study of social class and depression: A test of social causation and social selection models

  • Jennifer E. B. Ritsher (a1), Virginia Warner (a1), Jeffrey G. Johnson (a1) and Bruce P. Dohrenwend (a1)
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