The Impact of Socioeconomic Status on the Mental Health of Children

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The rate of mental illness diagnoses is increasing across the U.S. population. The impact of mental illness is not limited solely to adults, but also has a dramatic effect on adolescents in their formative years. Given the prevalence of mental illness in American society, an analysis was done to determine if there is a relationship between socioeconomic status and mental health diagnoses in children. Using parental education level and markers of poverty (measured as federal poverty level and qualification for cash assistance, free or reduced-cost breakfast or lunches, and food stamps) as the indicators for socioeconomic status, a cross-sectional analysis was performed using data from the Data Resource Center (DRC) for Child & Adolescent Health: A project of the Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative (CAHMI) National Survey for Children’s Health (NSCH). The mental health diagnoses utilized were anxiety and depression. The chi-square tests of independence found relationships between the following variables: parental education and depression; poverty level and anxiety; qualification for food stamps and anxiety; poverty level and depression; qualification for free or reduced-cost breakfast or lunches and depression; and qualification for food stamps and depression. The strongest relationship was found between qualification for food stamps and diagnoses of depression in the children.
A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Master of Public Health
Public Health, Health Education