Abstract: Help Seeking Behaviors and Depression Symptoms Among Low-Income Female Participants of Savings Groups in Mozambique (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Help Seeking Behaviors and Depression Symptoms Among Low-Income Female Participants of Savings Groups in Mozambique

Friday, January 13, 2023
Desert Sky, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Aweke Tadesse, Doctoral Student, Saint Louis University, MO
Jin Huang, PhD, Professor, Saint Louis University
Background: Village Savings and Loan Group (VSLG) is an organized group and formal entity that create opportunities for participants to save and to access financial assets. VSLG is one of the fast-growing community-based financial capability approach to promote family financial well-being. In addition to its financial and economic impacts, it has potentially positive impacts on increasing women’s social support, and further improves their mental health. Participation in a VSLG facilitates trust and connectedness among female participants and promotes social capital development. However, few studies examine the association between the VSLG participation, women’s help seeking and social support, and their depression status. To fill the knowledge gap, we examined this linkage using a program evaluation data from Mozambique.

Methods: The data was collected as part of the VSLG program evaluation conducted in Mozambique. The study applied a posttest-only comparison group quasi-experimental design and sampled female VSLG participants and non-participants from three sub-villages in the Sofala province. A multi-stage sampling technique was employed, and a total of 205 women were randomly selected to participate in the study, including 105 VSLG participants and 100 non-participants. Depressive symptoms were measured using the short version of the Edinburgh Depression Scale (EDS) with a summative score ranged from 7 to 28. Help seeking behaviors were measured by a scale ranging from 5 to 20. Help seeking behaviors were measured using a 5-item 4-point Likert scale with a range from 4 to 20, and women were asked to rank their help seeking behaviors in the past seven days. The focal independent variable is the VSLG participation status (participants/non-participants). We apply Structural Equations Modeling (SEM) to examine the mediation from the VSLG participation to mental health mediated through help seeking behaviors. Demographic and socioeconomic variables were adjusted in analyses.

Results: The VSLG participants group had a statistically lower mean depression score of 12.2 (SD=4.4) compared to non-participants (15.0, SD=4.0, p<.001). The VSLG participants group had a statistically higher mean score on help seeking behaviors of 15.7 (SD=2.4) compared to non-participants (14.2, SD=2.5, p<.001). SEM analysis shows that both women’s VSLG participation (effect size = .24, p<.001) and help seeking behaviors (effect size = .24, p<.001) are negatively associated with their depression symptom scores, and their VSLG participation is also positively related to help seeking behaviors (effect size = .29, p<.001). Help seeking behaviors are a partial mediator between the VSLG participation and depression symptoms, and the standardized indirect effects from the VSLG participation to depression is -.07 (p<.001).

Conclusion and Implications: Study findings show a positive association between the VSLG participation and women’s mental health. In addition, the study suggests that the VSLG participation may be associated with women’s improved help seeking behaviors and strengthened social support. The research suggests that community-based financial capability interventions have the potential to improve low-income women’s mental health.