Background: Acquisition of a disability in adulthood has been associated with a reduction in mental health. We tested the hypothesis that low wealth prior to disability acquisition is associated with a greater deterioration in mental health than for people with high wealth.
Methods: We assess whether level of wealth prior to disability acquisition modifies this association using 12 waves of data (2001-2012) from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey--a population-based cohort study of working-age Australians. Eligible participants reported at least two consecutive waves of disability preceded by at least two consecutive waves without disability (1977 participants, 13,518 observations). Fixed-effects linear regression was conducted with a product term between wealth prior to disability (in tertiles) and disability acquisition with the mental health component score of the SF-36 as the outcome.
Results: In models adjusted for time-varying confounders, there was evidence of negative effect measure modification by prior wealth of the association between disability acquisition and mental health (interaction term for lowest wealth tertile: -2.2 points, 95% CI -3.1 points, -1.2, p<0.001); low wealth was associated with a greater decline in mental health following disability acquisition (-3.3 points, 95% CI -4.0, -2.5) than high wealth (-1.1 points, 95% CI -1.7, -0.5).
Conclusion: The findings suggest that low wealth prior to disability acquisition in adulthood results in a greater deterioration in mental health than among those with high wealth.