Background: Mental health inequality along the economic strata is prominent in South Korea, particularly as intergenerational material transfer is becoming increasingly important in gaining economic status. Therefore, this study aimed to investigate the relationship between current and childhood economic status and depressive symptoms in adults aged 20 or above. Methods: This study used data from the Korean Welfare Panel Study (KOWEPS), 2010 to 2013. A total of 9,645 individuals aged 20 years or above without depressive symptoms in 2010 were analyzed. The effect of childhood and current economic status, categorized into low, middle, and high groups, on depressive symptoms was investigated using hierarchical logistic regression models. Depressive symptoms were measured using the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression (CES-D 11) scale. Subgroup analysis was performed based on education level. Results: Compared to the middle current-middle childhood economic status group, the low-low group (OR: 1.88, CI: 1.61-2.20), low-middle group (OR: 1.68, CI: 1.43-1.98), and low-high group (OR: 1.64, CI: 1.34-2.01) were more likely to have depressive symptoms. The high-low group (OR: 0.68, CI: 0.55-0.84), high-middle group (OR: 0.67, CI: 0.56-0.81), and high-high group (OR: 0.45, CI: 0.27-0.75) were less likely to have depressive symptoms. This trend was generally maintained with regard to education level, but the effects were not statistically significant in the high current economic status groups among participants with a university degree or above. Conclusion: Low current economic status was associated with a higher likelihood of depressive symptoms. In particular, the low current-low childhood economic status group showed the highest likelihood of depressive symptoms, suggesting the adverse mental health effects of prolonged poverty. Therefore, the findings reveal that mental health inequalities are present along the economic strata and require proper addressing of the mental health of lower income individuals.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Health Policy
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health