Mental Health Disparities among Women in Midlife: A Longitudinal Study of Depressive Symptoms, Status, and Disease in the United States

Open Access
Best, Latrica Evette
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
February 29, 2008
Committee Members:
  • Melissa Hardy, Committee Chair
  • Francis Dodoo, Committee Member
  • Michelle Lynn Frisco, Committee Member
  • Linda Ann Wray, Committee Member
  • women
  • depressive symptoms
The literature on the effects of depressive symptoms on women’s lives is quite extensive. However, much of the focus on depressive symptoms disparities in midlife has been on the role of hormonal changes either at childbirth or during menopause (Freeman et al 2004, 2006; Noble 2005). Many of these studies utilize small, cross-sectional studies to examine women’s psychological well being. With over one billion women projected to enter menopause, and subsequently old age, by 2030 (Noble 2005), it is imperative to understand the effects of both social and biological factors on the onset and prevalence of depression among this burgeoning group of women. As the leading cause of disease-related impairments among women worldwide, preventing major episodes of depression will become one of the world’s most pertinent health issues. Drawing primarily upon 6 waves (1993-2003) of the National Longitudinal Surveys Young Women Cohort (NLS-YW), this study expands on previous depression studies by evaluating the impact of socioeconomic status and health-related on explaining differences in depressive symptoms over time. The NLS-YW is a nationally representative sample of women who were initially interviewed during emerging adulthood and where followed until midlife (ages 39 to 51). Specifically, I take a closer look at the depressive symptoms in women over time and how these symptoms vary by key indicators. Furthermore, I examine within-group differences on important demographic, SES, and health-related measures and evaluate which indicators predict membership into a particular trajectory.