A longitudinal study of Queensland families found that low-income women are more likely to experience pre and postpartum depression.
An analysis of data from the Queensland Family Cohort (QFC) pilot project, conducted by Professor Brenda Gannon of the University of Queensland, found that women diagnosed with depression before and soon after giving birth earned an average of $ 417 less per week than their counterparts.
It also found that 23% more likely to come from non-white origins.
Professor Gannon’s study assessed the economic situation of 450 families participating in the trial at Mater Mothers’ Hospital in Brisbane.
“We specifically discussed data indicating unequal economic opportunities between populations in terms of mental health and the use of scarce health resources,” said Professor Gannon.
âIt is well known in the health economics literature that early childhood opportunities, before the birth of a child, can affect a child’s health and their use of health services.
“What is less well known is the extent to which social and economic opportunities are linked to maternal mental health and maternal use of health services before and after birth.”
In addition to income disparities, mothers with depression were more likely to be single (one in ten) and 24% less likely to have private health insurance.
“This study will help us identify the immediate and future health care needs of the population, providing information on these vulnerable groups,” said Professor Gannon.
QFC researchers are expanding the pilot project to a much larger three-decade longitudinal study of 12,500 families across Queensland.
QFC lead researcher Professor Vicki Clifton of Mater Research says the women and their partners have been recruited since 2018.
“Mothers and their partners fill out questionnaires on topics such as education, employment, housing, health, breastfeeding intentions, pregnancy history and sleep patterns,” said Professor Clifton .
Mothers also receive in-person visits with a midwife at 24, 28 and 36 weeks gestation, during their hospital stay and again six weeks after delivery.
Professor Clifton said similar studies have been developed across the world, meaning the data will be able to be compared, allowing for specific cultures, such as First Nations people.
âThe most important aspect is understanding the current state of health of families and their future health needs.
“This work will help improve the design of future health service requirements,” said Professor Clifton.
Image above left: Professor Vicki Clifton