The Influence of Employment on Depression: A Study of Partnered and Single Mothers in the United Kingdom

Susan Harkness, University of Bath

This paper explores the relationship between mother’s participation in paid employment and depression in the UK. It uses 18-waves of data from the British Household Panel Survey and the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ) to investigate this relationship at two points in time, 1993/98 and 2003/08. The findings show that maternal employment is associated with lower levels of mental distress for both married and single mothers. This relationship has become stronger over time for partnered mothers. For single mothers the association of work with a reduced incidence of depression is a new phenomenon only observed in the later period. Two potential reasons for these changes over time are investigated, those resulting from (i) changes in selection into employment; and (ii) occupational differences.

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Presented in Session 79: European Families and Well-Being