Mon. Aug 15th, 2022

A longitudinal study of Queensland families has found that women with lower incomes are more likely to suffer from depression before and after childbirth.

An analysis of Queensland Family Cohort (QFC) pilot project data, conducted by University of Queensland professor Brenda Gannon, found women diagnosed with depression before and shortly after birth earned an average of $ 417 less per week than their peers.

It also revealed that 23 percent are more likely to come from non-white backgrounds.

Professor Gannon’s study assessed the financial situation of 450 families who took part in the trial at Brisbane’s Mater Mothers’ Hospital.

“We specifically discussed data indicating inequality in economic opportunities between populations in terms of mental health and utilization of scarce health resources,” Professor Gannon said.

“It is well known in the health economics literature that early life opportunities before a child is born can affect a child’s health and their use of health services.

“What is less known is the extent to which social and economic opportunities are related to the mother’s mental health and the mother’s use of health services before and after childbirth.”

In addition to differences in income, mothers with depression were more likely to be single (every tenth) and 24 percent less likely to have private health insurance.

“This study will help us identify immediate and future health requirements for the population by providing information on these vulnerable groups,” said Professor Gannon.

QFC researchers are expanding the pilot to a much larger three-decade longitudinal study of 12,500 families in Queensland.

QFC lead researcher Professor Vicki Clifton of Mater Research says women and their partners have been recruited since 2018.

“Mothers and their partners fill out questionnaires about things like education, employment, housing, health, breastfeeding intentions, pregnancy history, and sleep patterns,” Professor Clifton said.

Mothers also receive face-to-face visits to a midwife at 24, 28 and 36 weeks of gestation while in hospital and again six weeks after giving birth.

Professor Clifton said that similar studies have been developed around the world, which means that data will be comparable, allowing for specific cultures, e.g. First Nations people.

“The most important aspect is to understand the family’s current health and their future health needs.

“This work will help improve the design of future health requirements,” said Professor Clifton.

Pictured above left: Professor Vicki Clifton

Media: Professor Brenda Gannon, Brenda.gannon@uq.edu.au, +61 (0) 7 3346 3483; Professor Vicki Clifton, vicki.clifton@mater.uq.edu.au; UQ Communications, Communication@bel.uq.edu.au, +61 (0) 7 3343 1321.

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