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We have always believed that access to mental health care is a major factor affecting people battling depression. In fact, past research concluded that depression patients with low socioeconomic status have poor treatment outcomes because they lack access to quality mental health care.
However, that seems not to be the case, according to the latest research from the University of Cincinnati.
A new study shows that depression patients in low socioeconomic backgrounds have worse treatment outcomes even when receiving the same quality of care as everyone else.
When we try to consider only access to quality health care as a factor, we do not do justice. That's because there are many other factors that could hinder someone in a low socioeconomic environment from recovering quickly from depression. These people are low-income earners with a lower level of education and members of minority populations. Some are even unemployed, which can negatively affect one's mental health.
All the factors are intertwined, so it's improper to isolate access to quality health care as the only cause of worse treatment outcomes among this demographic.
Take, for example, you're unemployed, knee-deep in debt with an apartment in a poor neighborhood, with no idea how you will pay your next month's rent. This is the stress people in resource-poor environments are often subject to. If this is what you go home to after receiving depression treatment, the thought of it all may even nullify the efficacy of the treatment, no matter how high-quality it is.
"If you're going home to a wealthy neighborhood with highly educated parents or spouse, then you're arguably in a much better environment for the treatment to be effective than if you're going to a poor neighborhood with other problems," said Jeffery Mills, the lead researcher.
The research team randomly selected 665 patients seeking treatment for depression. In the trial, each patient had equal access to quality treatment without any barriers like health insurance or income.
Results showed that:
We can see that these socioeconomic factors, when acting alone, influence how easily a patient may recover from depression. And it is worse for patients who fall within all of these demographics.
Of course, access to quality healthcare also impairs treatment outcomes. It's just not the only factor.
In essence, we have to account for one's socioeconomic background when administering treatment for depression.