Poverty, Inequality, And Discrimination As Sources Of Depression Among U.S. Women


  • Deborah Belle, Department of Psychology, Boston University; Joanne Doucet, Jewish Family Services, Montreal, Quebec.

  • We are grateful to Brenda Caldwell Phillips and Moira Hennessey for crucial research assistance.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Deborah Belle, Department of Psychology, Boston University, 64 Cummington Street, Boston, MA 02215. E-mail: debbelle@bu.edu


Poverty, inequality, and discrimination endanger women's well-being. Poverty is one of the most consistent predictors of depression in women, probably because it imposes considerable stress while attacking many potential sources of social support. Economic inequalities within societies are associated with reduced life expectancy and a variety of negative physical health outcomes. Parallel research on economic inequalities and depression has just begun. Discrimination maintains inequalities, condemns women to lives of lessened economic security, and exposes them to unmerited contempt. Although the mental health impact of poverty is documented and largely understood, the implications of inequality and discrimination are less well known. Much important work remains to be done, particularly research that connects individuals' mental health to ecological characteristics of the communities and societies in which they live.