Objective: To estimate the prevalence of depressive symptoms among women of reproductive age attending family planning clinics across southeast Texas in addition to demographic and reproductive characteristics associated with these symptoms.
Methods: A retrospective, self-reported, paper-and-pencil survey designed to assess health and risk behaviors was administered to 4726 low-income suburban women, aged 12 and 40 years, attending a family planning clinic in southeast Texas. The survey contained a background and demographic section in addition to six sections addressing health risk behaviors. Women also completed the 13-item Beck Depression Inventory to assess depressive symptoms.
Results: A total of 11.8% exhibited mild symptoms of depression, 14.0% had moderate symptoms, and 4.8% had severe symptoms. Women were at increased risk of moderate to severe symptoms of depression if they were Hispanic, had not graduated high school, were unemployed, or currently smoked cigarettes. Sexual or reproductive characteristics associated with moderate to severe symptoms included two or more lifetime sexual partners, having used hormonal contraception before age 13, not using any birth control at last intercourse, having had a sexually transmitted disease, not having had sexual intercourse in the last 3 months or having had it under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and having heard a family member worry about contracting a sexually transmitted disease or discuss use of alcohol or drugs before sex.
Conclusion: A large percentage of women experience moderate to severe depressive symptoms during their reproductive years. These symptoms are associated with numerous risk behaviors, including inconsistent use of birth control. Women's health care providers have the opportunity to provide a valuable service by screening for depressive symptoms.