Life-Course Mobility in Socioeconomic Position and High Depressive Symptoms Among Young Black Women: The SELF Study

Published:December 30, 2022DOI:



      Current literature on the association between mobility in socioeconomic position (SEP) and depression demonstrates mixed findings, with variation in the benefits of upward SEP by racial group and ethnic background. No study has examined life-course SEP mobility and depressive symptoms among Black women in the United States.


      Our cohort included 1,612 Black women enrolled in the Study of Environment, Lifestyle and Fibroids between 2010 and 2012 and followed for 5 years. We used data on socioeconomic indicators at childhood and adulthood and used latent class analysis to create a life-course SEP mobility measure (persistently low, downward, upward, and persistently high). Using the 11-item Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D), we assessed high (≥9) versus low depressive symptoms. Multivariable log risk models were used to produce risk ratios (RRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs).


      Of the participants, 37% had high depressive symptoms. Persistently low (RR, 1.56; 95% CI, 1.31–1.86) and downward (RR, 1.36; 95% CI, 1.14–1.63) SEP mobility was associated with high depressive symptoms after adjustment for age, adult social support, and marital status. There was evidence of an effect measure modification by adult social support, with a stronger association among those who reported high adult social support compared with low adult social support.


      These findings suggest directing mental health resources to people experiencing low SEP at any stage in life, especially those with low SEP in adulthood, to aid in the management of depressive symptoms.
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      Opal P. Patel, is a doctoral student in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of North Carolina in the Gillings School of Global Public Health with research interests in the area of environmental epidemiology.


      Dr. Arbor Quist, is an environmental epidemiologist interested in community-driven research that addresses climate and environmental injustice. Arbor recently completed her PhD in epidemiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is now a Postdoctoral Fellow in Environmental Justice & Community-Driven Epidemiology at the University of Southern California.


      Dr. Chantel L. Martin, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of North Carolina in the Gillings School of Global Public Health. Her research seeks to uncover social and biological mechanisms of health disparities across the life course.


      Dr. Ganesa Wegienka is a Senior Scientist and Epidemiologist in the Department of Public Health Sciences at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, MI. Dr. Wegienka's research interests include causes of pediatric allergic diseases such as allergy and asthma, as well as the racial disparities observed in their occurrence. She also has extensive research in women's health.


      Dr. Donna D. Baird, is an Intramural Scientist, Epidemiologist, and head of the Women's Health Group in the Epidemiology Branch at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. She has extensive experience in studies of reproductive hormones, fertility and early pregnancy, and the natural history of uterine fibroids; methodological expert in longitudinal data analysis, analysis of bias in reproductive outcomes, and research design in reproductive epidemiology.


      Dr. Lauren Wise, is a Professor in the Department of Epidemiology at Boston University School of Public Health. Her research involves the study of benign gynecologic conditions, delayed conception, and adverse pregnancy outcomes.


      Dr. Anissa I. Vines, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology in the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research involves the study of the psychosocial determinants of health and their influence on outcomes such as uterine fibroids, cancer disparities, and cardiometabolic conditions. Dr. Vines is particularly interested in stressors across the life course, including racism.