Effects of material hardship on depression among adults in South Korea: insights from by the Korea Welfare Panel Study 2008–2017

Soo Hyun Kang, Selin Kim, Eun Cheol Park, Sung In Jang

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3 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Low socioeconomic status deemed by income-based measures is a risk factor for depression. Material hardship is commonly used as a multidimensional socioeconomic indicator to identify the struggles that low-income households encounter that are not captured by conventional income-based measures. The aim of this study was to examine the effect of material hardship on depression. Methods: We used wave 3 (2008) to wave 12 (2017) panel data collected by the Korea Welfare Panel Study. The material hardship measure included six dimensions: food, housing, medical care, paying utility bills, education, and financial hardship. Depression was measured using the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CESD-11). A generalised estimating equation model was applied to test the causal association between material hardship and log transferred CESD-11. Results: The first time point comprised 3,866 participants. Those who continually experienced material hardship had higher depression scores (male: β = 2.82, female: β = 3.98, p-value: <.0001). Food hardship was the most critical risk factor (male: β = 3.29, female: β = 4.05, p-value: <.0001). Conclusions: Material hardship is associated with increased risk of depression, especially food hardship. We should consider guaranteeing food security, and community and policy makers should consider material hardship in their approach when identifying low-income populations at high risk for depression.

Original languageEnglish
Article number202
JournalInternational Journal for Equity in Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Dec

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are grateful to the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs and Seoul National University that conducted KoWePS which is the primary source of our study.

Funding Information:
This research was supported by a grant of the Korea Health Technology R&D Project through the Korea Health Industry Development Institute (KHIDI), funded by the Ministry of Health & Welfare, Republic of Korea (grant number: HI20C1130).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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