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Depression Often Goes Untreated in Working Moms

Health insurance, employee assistance could help mothers get treatment, researchers say

TUESDAY, Oct. 27 (HealthDay News) -- More than 65 percent of U.S. mothers with depression don't receive adequate treatment, a new study has found.

Black, Hispanic and other minority mothers are least likely to receive adequate treatment. Mothers with health insurance are three times more likely to receive adequate treatment than those without insurance, wrote the researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health.

"Health insurance facilitates access to adequate treatment for maternal depression. Expanding health insurance coverage to mothers with depression is a critical step in helping them get the care that they need," study author Dr. Whitney P. Witt, an assistant professor of population health sciences, said in a news release from the university.

The analysis of national data on 2,130 mothers with depression also found that working mothers were less likely to receive adequate treatment, possibly because long work hours make it difficult for them to find time to seek treatment. This means that workplaces could prove a useful location for depression intervention.

"Services like employee-assistance programs can help these mothers get screened and treated, even if they are unable to visit a provider or a mental health professional in the health-care setting," co-author Kristin Litzelman, a population health sciences doctoral student, said in the release. "Since healthy employees are productive employees, it's often a win-win for employers to offer benefits that support employee mental health."

Depression in mothers can have a major impact on the entire family, especially on the health and well-being of their children, the researchers noted. Treating depression in mothers can improve the long-term health of their families.

Health-care providers need to understand the racial, ethnic and educational disparities that affect treatment of mothers with depression in order to intervene and help these patients get the care they need, the study authors noted.

The study was released online in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of the Journal of Behavioral Health Services and Research.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about women and depression.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: University of Wisconsin, news release, Oct. 19, 2009

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