Document Type : Original Article
CEIS Sanità, Università di Roma “Tor Vergata”, Roma, Italy
Department of Economics, Seoul Women’s University, Seoul, South Korea
Departamento de Administración de Empresas, Facultad de CC. Jurídicas y Económicas, Universidad Camilo José Cela, Villanueva de la Cañada, Madrid, Spain
Depression is a mental health state whose frequency has been increasing in modern societies. It imposes a great burden, because of the strong impact on people’s quality of life and happiness. Depression can be reliably diagnosed and treated in primary care: if more people could get effective treatments earlier, the costs related to depression would be reversed. The aim of this study was to examine the influence of socio-economic factors and gender on depressed mood, focusing on Korea. In fact, in spite of the great amount of empirical studies carried out for other countries, few epidemiological studies have examined the socio-economic determinants of depression in Korea and they were either limited to samples of employed women or did not control for individual health status. Moreover, as the likely data endogeneity (i.e. the possibility of correlation between the dependent variable and the error term as a result of autocorrelation or simultaneity, such as, in this case, the depressed mood due to health factors that, in turn might be caused by depression), might bias the results, the present study proposes an empirical approach, based on instrumental variables, to deal with this problem.
Data for the year 2008 from the Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (KNHANES) were employed. About seven thousands of people (N= 6,751, of which 43% were males and 57% females), aged from 19 to 75 years old, were included in the sample considered in the analysis. In order to take into account the possible endogeneity of some explanatory variables, two Instrumental Variables Probit (IVP) regressions were estimated; the variables for which instrumental equations were estimated were related to the participation of women to the workforce and to good health, as reported by people in the sample. Explanatory variables were related to age, gender, family factors (such as the number of family members and marital status) and socio-economic factors (such as education, residence in metropolitan areas, and so on). As the results of the Wald test carried out after the estimations did not allow to reject the null hypothesis of endogeneity, a probit model was run too.
Overall, women tend to develop depression more frequently than men. There is an inverse effect of education on depressed mood (probability of -24.6% to report a depressed mood due to high school education, as it emerges from the probit model marginal effects), while marital status and the number of family members may act as protective factors (probability to report a depressed mood of -1.0% for each family member). Depression is significantly associated with socio-economic conditions, such as work and income. Living in metropolitan areas is inversely correlated with depression (probability of -4.1% to report a depressed mood estimated through the probit model): this could be explained considering that, in rural areas, people rarely have immediate access to high-quality health services.
This study outlines the factors that are more likely to impact on depression, and applies an IVP model to take into account the potential endogeneity of some of the predictors of depressive mood, such as female participation to workforce and health status. A probit model has been estimated too. Depression is associated with a wide range of socioeconomic factors, although the strength and direction of the association can differ by gender. Prevention approaches to contrast depressive symptoms might take into consideration the evidence offered by the present study.