Co-Occurring Depression and Substance Abuse Linked to Lower Income

Young adults with co-occurring depression and substance abuse are more likely to be unemployed and have a lower income in midlife as opposed to those with neither disorder, according to a study conducted by Rada Dagher, PhD, and Kerry Green, MD, at the University of Maryland School of Public Health.


This is the first investigation into the impact of co-occurring depression and substance abuse in young adulthood and socioeconomic status later in life, according to The University of Maryland.


Dagher and Green utilized data from the Woodlawn Study, which explores the paths of African Americans from the same disadvantaged Chicago community from first grade and adolescence through young adulthood and midlife. Dagher and Green’s primary focus was on the later two groups (ages 32 to 33 and 42 to 43, respectively).


Of the aforementioned population, 7.1% experienced both substance abuse and depression, 8.6% had depression without substance abuse and 11.9% had substance abuse without depression. While the study found that young adults with substance use disorder without depression had a higher likelihood of experiencing periods of unemployment than those with neither disorder, there was no difference in household income between the two.


Despite co-occurring depression and substance abuse impacting around nine million people each year, they are typically treated separately, which can have a significant negative impact on a person’s ability to earn a livelihood, lead author Dagher said in a release.


The authors concluded in their study that future research “could benefit from studying co-morbid mental disorders, rather than focusing on each disorder separately” and that “policymakers interested in decreasing socioeconomic disparities could target resources towards interventions aimed to reduce depression and substance abuse co-morbidity among minority populations.”