Effects of Household Member Mortality on Mental Health: Evidence From South Africa

Ellen Moscoe , University of Pennsylvania
Harsha Thirumurthy, University of Pennsylvania

This study aims to assess the effects of household mortality on depressive symptoms among surviving household members in South Africa, using longitudinal data from the National Income Dynamics Study. We use multivariate and individual-level fixed effects models. From 2008 to 2015, the proportion of adults in South Africa meeting the threshold for depression fell from 27% to 17%. Individuals that experienced a household death in the past 0-6 and 7-12 months had depression scores that were 0.42 (p<0.01) and 0.49 (p<0.01) points higher, equivalent to a 4 percentage point (14%) increase in depression. This study is among the first to examine the relationship between the death of household members and mental health in a setting with high mortality rates. We find a strong association between mortality events and mental health outcomes, and a large secular decline in the prevalence of depressive symptoms since 2008 that warrants further investigation.

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 Presented in Session 5. Health & Mortality 1