Linking Economic Indicators and Abuse With Depression: The Mediating Role of Financial Stress
Background: Experiencing intimate partner violence (IPV) can have a devastating impact on the emotional health of survivors. Additionally, women trapped in abusive relationships often mention economic reasons as a major barrier to leaving the relationship. Further, individuals with lower socioeconomic status disproportionately experience IPV which leads to an increase in the prevalence and intensity of depressive symptoms. Questions remain as to how a combination of abuse and economic indicators impact depression. This paper seeks to determine: 1) Is there is a relationship between depression and economic indicators? 2) Is there a relationship between changes in depression and changes in economic indicators? 3) Does financial stress influence these relationships?
Methods: This study is part of a larger experimental study that measured the impact of an economic empowerment program on the lives of IPV survivors. Participants were recruited from 14 domestic violence programs across 10 states and Puerto Rico with 457 participants completing four interviews over 15 months. The survey instrument was comprised of several scales that measured depression as the dependent variable; intimate partner violence, economic abuse, financial literacy, economic self-sufficiency, economic self-efficacy, and difficulty with income as the independent variables; and financial stress as the mediating variable. The data analysis was performed on the first two waves of data, utilizing cross sectional and longitudinal regressions.
Results: 457 female IPV survivors participated in the first wave of this study; 300 completed the interview for the second wave for a response rate of 66%. For participants who completed the T2 interview, 56% identified themselves as Latina; 21% as Black; 15% as White; and 7% as other. Results of the cross sectional multiple regression model indicated that higher levels of economic self-efficacy decreased depressive symptoms when controlling for covariates. Additionally, higher levels of difficulty with income and abuse increased depressive symptoms. Financial stress partially mediated the relationship between economic self-efficacy, difficulty with income, and abuse on depressive symptoms. In the longitudinal analyses, a change in economic self-sufficiency, economic self-efficacy, difficulty with income, and abuse significantly predicted change in depressive symptoms. Additionally, change in financial stress partially mediated the relationship between economic self-sufficiency, economic self-efficacy, difficulty with income, and abuse on depressive symptoms.
Conclusions & Implications: This paper provides broader support on the effect of economic indicators and experiences of abuse on depression among IPV survivors. Additionally, although economic conditions and abuse experiences are related to depression, financial stress is an important piece to understanding these relationships. Hence, an understanding of depressive symptoms must include financial stress as well as indicators of economic well-being and abuse experiences. Further research on these complex relationships is needed to prompt more policy and intervention strategies to assist IPV survivors.