King's College London

Research portal

Income inequality and depressive symptoms in South Africa: A longitudinal analysis of the national income dynamics study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Kafui Adjaye-Gbewonyo, Mauricio Avendano, S.V. Subramanian, Ichiro Kawachi

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-46
Number of pages10
Early online date14 Sep 2016
Accepted/In press25 Aug 2016
E-pub ahead of print14 Sep 2016
PublishedNov 2016

King's Authors


Research suggests that income inequality may detrimentally affect mental health. We examined the relationship between district-level income inequality and depressive symptoms among individuals in South Africa—one of the most unequal countries in the world—using longitudinal data from Wave 1 (2008) and Wave 3 (2012) of the National Income Dynamics Study. Depressive symptoms were measured using the Center for Epidemiological Studies of Depression Short Form while district Gini coefficients were estimated from census and survey sources. Age, African population group, being single, being female, and having lower household income were independently associated with higher depressive symptoms. However, in longitudinal, fixed-effects regression models controlling for several factors, district-level Gini coefficients were not significantly associated with depressive symptoms scores. Our results do not support the hypothesis of a causal link between income inequality and depressive symptoms in the short-run. Possible explanations include the high underlying levels of inequality in all districts, or potential lags in the effect of inequality on depression.

View graph of relations

© 2020 King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS | England | United Kingdom | Tel +44 (0)20 7836 5454