Depressed, rural moms face greater health challenges--and so do their kids

March 06, 2020

VANCOUVER, Wash. - Research at Washington State University has linked chronic depression with increased health problems for moms and children in poor rural communities, revealing the need for better treatment based on teamwork and trust.

Using data from the ongoing, multi-state Rural Families Speak project, a team led by Yoshie Sano, associate professor in WSU's Department of Human Development, examined the experiences of 23 mothers with clinical depression across three years.

The findings, recently published in the Journal of Family Social Work, revealed that mothers who were constantly depressed experienced more health problems, distrusted doctors and had a worse outlook on their lives, compared with moms whose symptoms improved. The mothers' depression also affected those closest to them.

"Mothers are one of the main supports of the family," said Sano, the lead author on the paper. "They're raising children, paying bills, and organizing events. When they're depressed, the entire family is impacted."

More than one in five adults deal with depression, a mood disorder that causes persistent sadness, exhaustion and loss of interest, affecting relationships, work, and emotional and physical health. Women are twice as likely to have depression as men, and people in poverty are three times more likely to experience it.

"Depression affects everything--employability, parenting, how we deal with daily life," said Sano. "Mental health is the core of a productive life."

As part of her research into family relationships through Rural Families Speak, Sano kept encountering mothers from rural, low-income families who were dealing with depression.

While much prior research has found how depression affects childhood development, she sought to understand the broader context of maternal depression.

Both groups of moms, those who were depressed but improving as well as those who had chronic depression, had similar struggles in dealing with their children's health. But chronically depressed moms faced greater challenges in dealing with their children's emotional and behavioral issues, which were often compounded by a lack of childcare options, employment, concerns for delinquent behaviors and day-to-day behavioral management issues.

"We found that children's health--particularly their emotional and behavioral health--is one of the most challenging contributors to maternal depression," Sano said. "Depression doesn't happen in isolation. It happens in a family, community, and cultural context."

Policy makers often focus on physical health as a direct obstacle to self-sufficiency for low-income families, said Sano.

"But especially for moms, mental health is the major obstacle," she said. "There's a huge stigma around mental health, especially in rural areas. Women try to deal with it alone."

The scientists found that chronically depressed mothers expressed strong distrust of health-care professionals and their prescribed treatments.

"It's critical for mothers to find at least one provider with whom they can build a trusting relationship--someone who knows their overall health histories, understands their family histories, and listens to their concerns," Sano said.

For rural communities with limited care providers, Sano underlined the importance of coordination between doctors, mental health professionals and social workers as well as the need to incorporate mental health screening into existing support systems, such as schools and public assistance.

"We hope our results will inspire new conversations among health care providers, and raise awareness that this is a hidden but deep problem for low-income mothers," she said. "Once people recognize this issue, the stigma attached to mental health will decrease."
Sano collaborated on this work with WSU colleague Cory Bolkan and Sheila Mammen of University of Massachusetts. This research was supported in part by grants from the USDA, Co-op Research and Extension Services and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Washington State University

Related Depression Articles from Brightsurf:

Children with social anxiety, maternal history of depression more likely to develop depression
Although researchers have known for decades that depression runs in families, new research from Binghamton University, State University of New York, suggests that children suffering from social anxiety may be at particular risk for depression in the future.

Depression and use of marijuana among US adults
This study examined the association of depression with cannabis use among US adults and the trends for this association from 2005 to 2016.

Maternal depression increases odds of depression in offspring, study shows
Depression in mothers during and after pregnancy increased the odds of depression in offspring during adolescence and adulthood by 70%.

Targeting depression: Researchers ID symptom-specific targets for treatment of depression
For the first time, physician-scientists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center have identified two clusters of depressive symptoms that responded to two distinct neuroanatomical treatment targets in patients who underwent transcranial magnetic brain stimulation (TMS) for treatment of depression.

A biological mechanism for depression
Researchers report that in depressed individuals there are increased amounts of an unmodified structural protein, called tubulin, in lipid rafts compared with non-depressed individuals.

Depression in adults who are overweight or obese
In an analysis of primary care records of 519,513 UK adults who were overweight or obese between 2000-2016 and followed up until 2019, the incidence of new cases of depression was 92 per 10,000 people per year.

Why stress doesn't always cause depression
Rats susceptible to anhedonia, a core symptom of depression, possess more serotonin neurons after being exposed to chronic stress, but the effect can be reversed through amygdala activation, according to new research in JNeurosci.

Which comes first: Smartphone dependency or depression?
New research suggests a person's reliance on his or her smartphone predicts greater loneliness and depressive symptoms, as opposed to the other way around.

Depression breakthrough
Major depressive disorder -- referred to colloquially as the 'black dog' -- has been identified as a genetic cause for 20 distinct diseases, providing vital information to help detect and manage high rates of physical illnesses in people diagnosed with depression.

CPAP provides relief from depression
Researchers have found that continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can improve depression symptoms in patients suffering from cardiovascular diseases.

Read More: Depression News and Depression Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to