Low socioeconomic status (SES) has been shown to be a high risk factor for negative mental health. Research in this area has suggested that people living in low SES have a greater risk for exposure to violence, being victims of violence, substance use and depression. For pregnant women, the risk poses a threat not only to the psychological well-being of the mother, but also to that of the unborn child. This creates a need for further exploration into how SES and, in particular, financial strain, impact stress in pregnant women.
Financial strain is different than SES in that it represents unique financial conditions relative to an individual’s expenses and income. In a recent study, Stephanie L. Prady of the Department of Health Sciences at the University of York in the United Kingdom focused on how financial strain, SES, and ethnicity affected the stress of pregnant women in a sample of 8,454 participants.
She found that among the participants, eight separate ethnic groups emerged. Of those, six exhibited poor mental health as a result of financial strain and concern. Only the African and Indian women were not at increased risk of mental health problems due to financial strain. Working status also appeared to impact some women psychologically. For women of Bangladeshi and Indian decent, as well as Pakistani women who spoke English, unemployment presented a threat to mental health. Cohabitation was also a factor that influenced mental health.
In general, white women had poorer mental health when they did not live with a partner. However, the African women, who had financial strains and generally did not live with partners, were somehow insulated from negative psychological well-being. Prady believes the findings of this study show that women living in low SES conditions may not all be vulnerable to stress. Factors such as family support, partner support, work status, and subjective financial state are significant indicators of psychological well-being in certain ethnic groups. She added, “Our results highlight the complexity inherent in ascertaining individual, group, and population risks in a multi-ethnic community.”
Prady, S.L., Pickett, K.E., Croudace, T., Fairley, L., Bloor, K., et al. (2013). Psychological distress during pregnancy in a multi-ethnic community: Findings from the Born in Bradford Cohort Study. PLoS ONE 8(4): e60693. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0060693
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