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Social Change and the Evolution of Gender Differences in Depression: An Age-Cohort Consideration

Sun, August 13, 8:30 to 10:10am, Palais des congrès de Montréal, Level 5, 516C

Abstract

The tendency for females to display more depressed affect in the United States is a highly complex social problem that has personal and society-wide impacts. This study investigates whether social change in education, employment and household work during the 20th century has been associated with improvements in the mental health status of younger cohorts of Americans (and in particular American women). Using Mirwosky’s (2013) age-vector modeling strategy, we distinguish between changes in the depression implications of employment and household work due to cohort versus age effects. Controlling for race, education, and marital stauts, we find gender differences in depression decrease significantly for incoming cohorts. Employment is also highly and increasingly beneficial for younger cohorts of women, while lower levels of employment are especially detrimental for incoming cohorts of men. Finally, the combination of high levels of involvement in the workforce and at home do not seem to be particularly significant in augmenting the depression of later-born cohorts of both men and women across the life course. In fact, a mixed level of involvement in the labour force combined with average levels of housework is associated with worse depression scores and sometimes higher gender differences in depression than lower involvement in the labour force and not working at home.

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