The working life expectancy of American adults experiencing depression

Publication type
Journal article
Dobson KG , Gignac MA, Mustard C
Date published
2023 Sep 01
Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology
[epub ahead of print]
Open Access?

Objectives: To estimate the working life expectancies (WLE) of men and women with depression, examining depression by symptom trajectories from the late 20s to early 50s, and to estimate WLE by race/ethnicity and educational attainment. Methods: Data from 9206 participants collected from 1979 to 2018 in the US National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 cohort were used. Depression was measured using the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale Short Form at four time points (age 28-35, age 30-37, age 40, and age 50). Labor force status was measured monthly starting at age 30 until age 58-62. Depressive symptom trajectories were estimated using growth mixture modeling and multistate modeling estimated WLE from age 30-60 for each gender and depressive symptom trajectory. Results: Five latent symptom trajectories were established: a persistent low symptom trajectory (n = 6838), an episodic trajectory with high symptoms occurring before age 40 (n = 995), an episodic trajectory with high symptoms occurring around age 40 (n = 526), a trajectory with high symptoms occurring around age 50 (n = 570), and a persistent high symptom trajectory (n = 277). The WLE for men at age 30 was 30.3 years for the persistent low symptom trajectory, 22.8 years for the episodic before 40 trajectory, 19.6 years for the episodic around age 40 trajectory, 18.6 years for the episodic around age 50 trajectory, and 13.2 years for the persistent high symptom trajectory. Results were similar for women. WLE disparities between depression trajectories grew when stratified by race/ethnicity and education level. Conclusions: Roughly a quarter of individuals experienced episodic depressive symptoms. However, despite periods of low depressive symptoms, individuals were expected to be employed ~5-17 years less at age 30 compared to those with low symptoms. Accessible employment and mental health disability support policies and programs across the working life course may be effective in maintaining work attachment and improving WLE among those who experience depression.