Rutgers University Study Finds That Postpartem Depression Can Have Lingering Effects for Up to 15 Years

A new study by a team of researchers at Rutgers University in New Jersey found that women who experienced depression in the year following childbirth were more likely to be unemployed and experience financial hardship up to 15 years later.

Researchers looked at 4,362 U.S. women who delivered babies between 1998 and 2000 and were followed until 2017. About 12 percent of the women met the criteria for a major depressive episode one year postpartum. The researchers found that maternal depression during the first year had a strong and sustained association with economic hardship — such as meeting medical costs, experience of utility shut-offs, inability to pay bills, and food and housing insecurity — up to 15 years later. Maternal depression was also associated with unemployment in the first three years after delivery and poverty three to nine years after delivery.

“These findings highlight the importance of screening and expanding access to mental health support services for low-income pregnant and postpartum women,” says Slawa Rokicki, a tenure-track instructor at the Rutgers School of Public Health and lead author of the study. “Despite having higher rates of maternal depression, racial and ethnic minority groups have the lowest rates of accessing care. Comprehensive interventions are needed to address the barriers to screening and treatment and reduce health inequities.”

Dr. Rokicki is a graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, where she majored in mathematics. She holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in health policy from Harvard University.

The full study, “Depression in the Postpartum Year and Life Course Economic Trajectories,” was published on the website of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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