Low-income mothers who don’t have enough diapers for their babies are more likely to report symptoms of depression and anxiety than other low-income mothers, according to new research from Yale University. Three in 10 poor mothers reported that they cannot afford an adequate supply of diapers, the study found.
For the study, researchers evaluated mothers in a Connecticut low-income housing project and found that a lack of an adequate supply of diapers was a stronger predictor of a mother’s mental health needs than even food insecurity.
A typical baby requires between eight and 10 diapers a day, at a cost of around $120 a month, according to the DC Diaper Bank, a nonprofit that provides free diapers to poor families in Washington, D.C.
During the study, however, some women were trying to make a single diaper last an entire day, due in part to their lack of cash and the high price of the products in their neighborhoods.
“As researchers, we tend to look at how poverty impacts mental health in general terms, but we do not often think of specific mechanisms whereby poverty contributes to the mental health of women and mothers,” said Megan Smith, Dr.P.H., assistant professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine and principal author of the study.
“A significant finding in this study is that we have identified a unique and potentially modifiable mental health risk factor for mothers.”
Smith also noted that the finding had implications for children.
“A parent’s mental health affects a child’s development,” she said. “High levels of stress and depression in a parent can be associated with low achievement in school and mental health problems that can follow a child for a lifetime.”
Smith said the idea to study diaper shortages came from more than 1,000 mothers interviewed by the New Haven Mental health Outreach for MotherS (MOMS) Partnership, a partnership between Yale and seven local and state agencies to support and study the mental health of low-income mothers in New Haven.
Smith suggests that pediatricians ask low-income mothers whether they have access to enough diapers and refer mothers in need to local diaper banks.
The study is published in the journal Pediatrics.
Source: Yale University