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Unit 4: Lesson 1

Foundations of behavior passages

Educational attainment, income, and psychiatric disorders


Studies have found that the lower the socioeconomic status (SES) of an individual, the higher his or her risk of mental illness. Research conducted in communities reported that regardless of the type of SES indicator used—whether education, income, or occupation—or the type of mental illness examined, similar associations were observed. Several large-scale population studies were administered to study such patterns across the US.
Using the National Comorbidity Study (NCS), a large study of psychiatric disorder in the US, researchers looked at the relationship between education attainment and income levels (Study 1). The survey interviewed over 8,000 people ages 15-54 and was the first to use a national probability sample to estimate psychiatric disorders. The psychiatric disorders assessed in the NCS include major depression, mania, dysthymia, panic disorder, social phobia, nonaffective psychosis (psychosis not related to moods or emotions), etc. Table 1 below shows the odds ratios for the levels of broad categories of psychiatric disorders by educational level (years) and income level. The results indicate bivariate associations. The value of 1.00 in the last columns of education and income indicate that the highest levels serve as the reference category. An odds ratio greater than 1.0 indicates a higher prevalence of that disorder for those in the specified category relative to those in the reference category. For example, the value 2.33 for “any disorder” indicates that people with 0-11 years of education are 2.33 times more likely to experience any disorder compared to those in the reference group (16+ years of education).
Table 1: Odds ratios for psychiatric disorders (in the last 12 months) by years of education and annual income, National Comorbidity Study (n=8,098).
While the above study asserts that conditions of life associated with low SES increase risks of mental disorders, other researchers conducted a study which found that existing mental illnesses actually impairs status and educational attainment (Study 2). For example, they found that mental disorders may cause downward movement among adults and lead them to “drift” into the lower socioeconomic strata.
Sources: Adapted from Y. Yu and D. R. Williams, “Socioeconomic Status and Mental Health”, In Handbook of the Sociology of Mental Health. Edited by C. S. Aneshensel and J. C. Phelan. Copyright 1999. Kluwer Academic/ Plenum Publishers.
According to the results on the relationship between educational attainment and psychiatric disorders in Table 1, which of the following is true?
Choose 1 answer:
Choose 1 answer: