From childhood financial hardship to late-life depression: socioeconomic pathways

Aging Ment Health. 2021 Jan;25(1):86-93. doi: 10.1080/13607863.2019.1671313. Epub 2019 Oct 10.


Objective: Childhood financial hardship is associated with depression throughout the life course, including older adulthood. However, it is still unclear the extent to which occupation, education level and household income are mediators of this association. We aimed to examine the association between childhood financial hardship and late-life depression, and potential socioeconomic mediators using community-based data.

Methods: A nationally representative sample of 3623 non-institutionalized older Spanish adults aged 50+ was used. The associations between childhood financial hardship and depression, socioeconomic mediator variables and confounding variables such as chronic physical conditions, number of close people, and loneliness, were assessed through logistic regression models. Mediation analyses of socioeconomic variables were carried out.

Results: Older Spanish adults who experienced a poor childhood financial situation were nine times more likely to obtain a lower level of education than those with a good childhood financial situation, and about three times more likely to suffer from depression. Participants' education level mediated about 35-40% of the association between childhood financial hardship and late-life depression whereas we found no significant mediation effect of household income and occupation skill.

Conclusion: Improving access to the educational system during the life course might result in a reduction in the prevalence of depression in the general population of older adults and particularly among individuals with low socioeconomic status.

Keywords: Childhood SES; Spain; depression; intergenerational social mobility.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Depression* / epidemiology
  • Financial Stress*
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Occupations
  • Prevalence
  • Social Class
  • Socioeconomic Factors