Study ties income inequality, depression

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Posted: Saturday, November 2, 2013 12:00 am

Women who live in states with the greatest income gaps are at bigger risk of depression, according to a recent study.

Living in states with a vast divide between the wealthy and poor makes people, especially women, more aware of their own financial circumstances and frustrated at being unable to keep up, a study made public in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health suggests.

Roman Pabayo, co-author of the study and a researcher at Harvard University’s School of Public Health, told Reuters that the team studied data from a national mental health report combined with their own calculations on income gaps in the 50 states.

The study found that women living in areas such as Washington, D.C., with a yawning gap between the haves and the have-nots, are almost twice as likely to suffer from depression compared with those residing in more equitable states such as Alaska.

The report comes at a time of increased focus on the vast divide between the rich and poor in America. The gap between the 1 percent with the highest incomes and the rest of the country is at its widest since 1928, according to economists at University of California-Berkeley, Oxford University and the Paris School of Economics, who analyzed data from the Internal Revenue Service.

Robert Shiller, a professor at Yale University who was one of three Americans to win this year’s Nobel Prize in economics, said this month that economic inequality in the U.S. and around the world is a huge problem.

Part of the growing divide can be attributed to stagnant incomes.

Many American workers saw no increase in pay during the recession and its aftermath. Adjusted for inflation, the median household income last year was 8.3 percent lower than in 2007, according to the Census Bureau.

There also are vast differences in income depending on what city a person lives in. According to research from 24/7 Wall Street, areas such as Washington, D.C., and San Jose, Calif., ranked at the top for highest median incomess. At the bottom were areas such as Brownsville, Texas, and Dalton, Ga.

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