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Survey Finds Depression Twice as Common Among the Poor

Americans in poverty struggle with a wide array of health problems, with depression topping the list, according to just released information from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

About 31 percent of Americans in poverty say they have at some point been diagnosed with depression compared with 15.8 percent of those not in poverty.

People living in poverty are also more likely to report asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart attacks — which are likely related to the higher level of obesity found for this group, according to the index.

The researchers note that these differences in chronic disease rates between those living in poverty and those who are not hold true after controlling for age.

Those in poverty report generally worse health habits than adults who are not in poverty, which may be at least partly contributing to the higher levels of chronic diseases among the impoverished, according to the research.

Smoking is the most significant issue — 33 percent of those in poverty smoke compared with nearly 20 percent of those who are not in poverty.

Those in poverty are also less likely to exercise frequently and eat fruits and vegetables regularly.

Americans living in poverty also are significantly less likely to have access to basic health care, according to the research. Nearly four in 10 Americans in poverty lack health insurance, contrasting with the 14.3 percent of Americans who are not in poverty and uninsured — a difference of nearly 24 percentage points.

Those in poverty also were more than twice as likely to say there have been times in the past 12 months when they did not have enough money to pay for the health care or medicine that they or their families needed — 37.8 percent vs. 16.5 percent. Impoverished Americans are also significantly less likely to say they have a personal doctor.

Americans in poverty are more likely to say they have been diagnosed with a chronic health problem, with depression being a “particularly pronounced issue,” according to the researchers.

What is unclear is if there is a relationship between poverty and depression, they said, noting depression could lead to poverty in some circumstances, poverty could lead to depression in others, or some third factor could be causing both.

Th findings are based on more than 288,000 interviews conducted in 2011 with American adults as a part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

Source: Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index


Survey Finds Depression Twice as Common Among the Poor

Janice Wood

Janice Wood is a long-time writer and editor who began working at a daily newspaper before graduating from college. She has worked at a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites, covering everything from aviation to finance to healthcare.

APA Reference
Wood, J. (2018). Survey Finds Depression Twice as Common Among the Poor. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 3, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 31 Oct 2012)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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