Savings, home ownership, and depression in low-income US adults

Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2021 Jul;56(7):1211-1219. doi: 10.1007/s00127-020-01973-y. Epub 2020 Nov 11.


Purpose: While the association between income and depression is well established, less explored is the relation between wealth and depression, particularly among low-income adults. We studied the relation between two types of assets-savings and home ownership-and probable depression to understand how access to different assets may shape depression among low-income US adults.

Methods: Study sample We conducted a serial cross-sectional, observational study with 12,019 adults with low-income in the United States using National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data from 2007 to 2016. Measures We measured probable major depressive disorder (MDD) with impairment using the Patient Health Questionnaire-9. Low savings was defined as having $5000 or less in family savings. Statistical analysis We estimated adjusted and unadjusted prevalence, odds ratios, and predicted probability of probable MDD across asset groups.

Results: Of low-income US adults, 5.4% had probable MDD with impairment, 85.9% had low savings, and 54.9% rented their home. Persons with low savings had 2.34 (95% CI 1.44-3.79) times the odds of having probable MDD relative to those with high savings. Home owners had 2.14 (95% CI 1.20-3.86) and home renters had 3.65 (95% CI 1.45-9.20) times the odds of having probable MDD if they had low savings relative to high savings.

Conclusion: Family savings and home ownership are associated with lower burden of depression among low-income adults in the US.

Keywords: Assets; Depression; Housing; Low-income; Mental health.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depressive Disorder, Major* / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder, Major* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Ownership*
  • United States / epidemiology