28 March 2017: Ronelle Burger

Negative household events and depressive symptoms: Evidence from South African longitudinal data

Speaker(s): Ronelle Burger (Stellenbosch University)

Date: Tuesday, 28 March, 2017

Time: 12:00-13:00

Venue: H12-30

Contact person(s): Teresa Bago d'Uva


Background: The relationship between negative life events and vulnerability to depression is not well-documented in developing countries, particularly using large-scale, longitudinal data. This study seeks to add to this literature by examining the relationship between negative household events and vulnerability to depression amongst a representative sample of South African adults for the period 2008 to 2012.

Methods: Data from three waves of the longitudinal South African National Income Dynamics Study (NIDS) were analysed to estimate the association between negative household events and adult depressive symptoms using ordinary least squares (OLS) and fixed-effects regression models.

Results: One in four South Africans reported that they lived in a household where at least one household member had been seriously ill or injured, or where a household member, relative or friend had died within the previous two years. There was a significant association between the serious illness of a household member, or the death of a family member who provided financial assistance, and adult depression scores.

Limitations:The study used data collected in a large-scale household survey by field work teams. It is reliant on self-reported depressive symptoms that have not been validated by formal clinical diagnosis.

Conclusions: There are high rates of morbidity and mortality in South Africa, and adults living in households where family members are ill or have died are significantly more vulnerable to depression. These findings highlight the importance of providing counselling and psychiatric support not only to those directly affected by negative health events, but also to their family or household members.