Study reveals rural, unmarried women at higher risk for depression

June 11, 2008

Mayo Clinic research suggests unmarried women living in rural areas have lower self-rated health status than their married counterparts. This lower health status often includes greater instances of self-assessed feelings of depression. The results of the study were recently published in the Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice. They suggest that primary care physicians should take a proactive role in addressing health concerns of single women.

"We tend to focus on disease, but as the World Health Organization notes, good health includes physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease," says James Rohrer, Ph.D., of Mayo Clinic's Department of Family Medicine and lead author of the study. "Being single may be associated with a greater degree of separation from usual health care, as many women gain insurance through a spouse or a former spouse. Lack of social support also may contribute to poor health among some single women."

Researchers used a cross-functional survey to gather self-ratings of overall health among female primary care patients aged 18 years and older who live in cities with a census of approximately 3,000. The study analyzed marital status and self-assessed mental health as potential risk factors for poor overall self-rated health among female primary care patients. The analysis revealed that single or divorced women are more prone to poor self-rated health compared to married women. Women who described themselves as being depressed also had worse overall health. Women aged 65 and older had an even higher risk of poor self-rated health.

While the data were finalized in 2000, Dr. Rohrer notes that current economic concerns may exacerbate the risk.

"Economic problems increase feelings of emotional stress. People today are worried about, among other things, the mortgage crisis and high gas prices. Many are left wondering how they are going to pay for necessities. Statistically, rural, unmarried women are more often economically depressed than their married counterparts," says Dr. Rohrer. "If the economy worsens, we will see a significant impact on visits to primary care physicians and nurses. Medical providers are trained to focus on the biological and psychological. But economic causes of poor health? I don't think that receives a lot of air time in medical school."

Patients experiencing feelings of poor self-rated mental health can address these concerns with screening, health promotion and treatment programs. Screening can be followed-up with self-help materials, support groups and medication if deemed appropriate by the physician. Referrals to financial counseling might have indirect therapeutic value.

Source: Mayo Clinic

Explore further: India sees clean cooking as climate action that saves lives

Related Stories

India sees clean cooking as climate action that saves lives

November 11, 2015

Kamlesh feeds the flames of a crude clay cookstove with kindling, kerosene and sunbaked discs of cow dung. She breathes in the billowing smoke, as she does for hours every day. Her eyes water and sting. Her throat feels scratchy ...

Are we funding the right researchers in Australia?

November 2, 2015

If we want the Australian university sector to help fuel innovation, then we need to ensure the right researchers are being supported by our funding bodies, such as the Australian Research Council (ARC) and National Health ...

Would you eat your pet cat?

October 19, 2015

In most Western cultures cats are simply feline pet companions eager to greet us at the end of the day. In continents such as Asia and Africa, the social norms surrounding cats are very different; our furry friends commonly ...

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

( -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.