Country- and individual-level socioeconomic determinants of depression: multilevel cross national comparison

D Rai, P Zitko, K Jones, John W Lynch, R Araya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

173 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: The prevalence and correlates of depression vary across countries. Contextual factors such as country-level income or income inequalities have been hypothesised to contribute to these differences.

AIMS: To investigate associations of depression with socioeconomic factors at the country level (income inequality, gross national income) and individual (education, employment, assets and spending) level, and to investigate their relative contribution in explaining the cross-national variation in the prevalence of depression.

METHOD: Multilevel study using interview data of 187 496 individuals from 53 countries participating in the World Health Organization World Health Surveys.

RESULTS: Depression prevalence varied between 0.4 and 15.7% across countries. Individual-level factors were responsible for 86.5% of this variance but there was also reasonable variation at the country level (13.5%), which appeared to increase with decreasing economic development of countries. Gross national income or country-level income inequality had no association with depression. At the individual level, fewer material assets, lower education, female gender, economic inactivity and being divorced or widowed were associated with increased odds of depression. Greater household spending, unlike material assets, was associated with increasing odds of depression (adjusted analysis).
CONCLUSIONS: The variance of depression prevalence attributable to country-level factors seemed to increase with decreasing economic development of countries. However, country-level income inequality or gross national income explained little of this variation, and individual-level factors appeared more important than contextual factors as determinants of depression. The divergent relationship of assets and spending with depression emphasise that different socioeconomic measures are not interchangeable in their associations with depression.
Translated title of the contributionA multilevel cross-national comparison of contextual and individual determinants of depression
Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Psychiatry
Early online date24 Jan 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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