Welfare participation and depression among youth and young adults in the United States and Chine


Wu, Shiyou (2017). Welfare participation and depression among youth and young adults in the United States and Chine.


Globally, depression is one of the most common mental disorders among youth and young adults, occurring at similar rates in countries with dissimilar cultures, such as the United States and China. Despite cultural differences, both the United States and China have systems of public welfare that create a social safety net and provide at least a minimal standard of living. Although many studies have documented the prevalence of mental health issues among adult welfare recipients, little empirical research has examined the prevalence of depression among youth and young adults who were raised in welfare recipient families. To address this gap in the knowledge, this dissertation uses welfare participation as a marker of low socioeconomic status with the aim of creating a nuanced understanding of the relationship between welfare participation and youth depression in the United States and China. The first paper presents a systematic review of 15 reports that evaluated the relationship of welfare participation with the prevalence of youth depression in the United States. Results from four descriptive studies had mixed findings, whereas the remaining comparison studies consistently showed an association between welfare participation and elevated risk of depression. The second paper used the U.S. Add Health data to investigate the relationship between childhood welfare participation and depression during young adulthood. Results showed childhood welfare participation to be positively related to self-reported depression score in young adulthood. However, no significant relationship between childhood welfare participation and clinical diagnoses of depression was observed. Additionally, subgroup analyses (i.e., by poor, near-poor, and non-poor groups and by gender) indicated that the higher depression scores were significant only for the poor group, whereas only the near-poor group had a significantly higher probability of being diagnosed with depression. Moreover, female young adults raised in families that received welfare had significantly higher depression scores. The third paper used data from a national survey conducted in China to examine the relationship between participating the Dibao welfare program and depression among Chinese youth. Results showed that Dibao-recipient youth had significantly higher depression scores compared to non-recipient youth. Moreover, subgroup analyses showed significantly higher depression scores among 4 groups of Dibao-recipient youth: those living in rural areas, those with a child, females with a child, and rural female with a child. Overall, the findings presented across these 3 papers are consistent and suggest youth from welfare recipient families have a higher vulnerability to depression. Each of the papers includes a discussion of the implications for social work practice and future research.




ProQuest document ID 1955177791

Reference Type


Book Title

Social Work


Wu, Shiyou

Series Author(s)

Fraser, Mark W.

Year Published


Volume Number





University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill

City of Publication

Ann Arbor, Michigan





Reference ID