The role of labor market inequalities in explaining the gender gap in depression risk among older US adults

Maria Gueltzow, Maarten J. Bijlsma, Frank J. van Lenthe*, Mikko Myrskylä

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

We aim to investigate to what extent gender inequality at the labor market explains higher depression risk for older US women compared to men. We analyze data from 35,699 US adults aged 50–80 years that participated in the Health and Retirement Study. The gender gap is calculated as the difference in prevalence in elevated depressive symptoms (score ≥ 3 on the 8-item Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale) between women and men. We employ a dynamic causal decomposition and simulate the life course of a synthetic cohort from ages 50–80 with the longitudinal g-formula and introduce four nested interventions by assigning women the same probabilities of A) being in an employment category, B) occupation class, C) current income and D) prior income group as men, conditional on women's health and family status until age 70. The gender gap in depression risk is 2.9%-points at ages 50–51 which increases to 7.6%-points at ages 70–71. Intervention A decreases the gender gap over ages 50–71 by 1.2%-points (95%CI for change: 2.81 to 0.4), intervention D by 1.64%-points (95%CI for change: 3.28 to −0.15) or 32% (95%CI: 1.39 to 62.83), and the effects of interventions B and C are in between those of A and D. The impact is particularly large for Hispanics and low educated groups. Gender inequalities at the labor market substantially explain the gender gap in depression risk in older US adults. Reducing these inequalities has the potential to narrow the gender gap in depression.

Original languageEnglish
Article number116100
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Volume332
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We perform our analysis with the 2018 RAND HRS Longitudinal File of the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). The HRS is a nationally representative biannual longitudinal survey based in the US. It was established in 1992 and comprises data on over 37,000 adults over the age of 50 years ( Sonnega et al., 2014 ). The HRS data is sponsored by the National Institute on Aging (grant number U01AG009740) and conducted by the University of Michigan.

Funding Information:
MG gratefully acknowledges the resources made available by the International Max Planck Research School for Population, Health and Data Science (IMPRS-PHDS). MM was supported by the ERC Synergy grant BIOSFER (#101071773), Strategic Research Council (SRC), FLUX consortium, decision numbers: 345130 and 345131, and the Max Planck – University of Helsinki Center for Social Inequalities in Population Health.

Funding Information:
MM was supported by the ERC Synergy grant BIOSFER (#101071773), Strategic Research Council (SRC) , FLUX consortium, decision numbers: 345130 and 345131, and the Max Planck – University of Helsinki Center for Social Inequalities in Population Health .

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors

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