The study looked at the first nationally representative estimates of chronic depression in Nigeria to shed light on how it may be linked to economic outcomes, such as Labour market and human capital investments, especially in heavy-conflict areas or for individuals or communities who have experienced shocks or deaths.
Describing the availability of representative statistics of mental health at the national level as rare, the Washington-based lender’s Mind, Behaviour and Development Unit said the results were not surprising, but telling.
Chronic depression, according to the report, is strongly associated with adverse events, especially conflict, and these events are positively associated with chronic depression but their effects vary.
“For example, less than 30 per cent of household heads who are affected by a family death or a community shock (such as droughts) are chronically depressed. This contrasts with more than 50 per cent of household heads affected by conflicts; this rate of depression is more than twice the national average,” it said.
There are strong socioeconomic gradients at play with respect to chronic depression, the World Bank’s behavioural sciences team in the Poverty and Equity Global Practice said.
It said, “Being in the bottom 30 per cent of the income distribution is positively associated with chronic depression. Even worse, adverse events affecting these households add another 10 percentage points to the probability of having a chronically depressed household head. Poverty and shocks go hand in hand.”
The study also finds that there is a strong correlation between chronic depression and labour market outcomes.
It said, “Specifically, a household head who is chronically depressed has an eight percentage points lower probability of participating in the labour market. While the overall effects are similar by gender, chronic depression drives lower labour market participation in agricultural activities for men and in non-farm self-employment for women (which is mainly driven by gender sectoral distribution). In our sample of workers, there is no correlation in terms of number of hours worked.”
According to the report, chronic depression also affects child investments.
It says families with a chronically depressed parent spend nearly $30 (in current terms) less in educational expenses annually, driven by lower investments among older girls between 12 and 18 years of age.
It adds that younger children (particularly girls) between five and 11 years of age who live with a chronically depressed parent are 2.5 percentage points more likely to work.
The World Bank said, “Taken together, these findings suggest that chronic depression is likely to have both short- and long-term effects on welfare in Nigeria. It also seems to be affecting intra and inter-generational channels of upward mobility.
“With almost two out of every five Nigerians affected by shocks, deaths, and/or conflicts (key drivers of chronic depression), further understanding these costs and linkages is essential.”
According to the report, conflict- and shock-mitigating policies (related, for example, to insurance, prices, and security) may have far higher economic impacts than what is traditionally measured.
It said, “Thus, policymakers should take the potential amplified costs of adverse events into account when making these decisions. Last, it is of utmost importance to integrate solutions in mental health policies to provide psychological support to affected populations.
“These policies may include implementing mental health and psychosocial programmers, which have been tested in similar settings, and changing the social norms related to communication about and treatment of depression and depressive and stress symptoms. By directly treating and minimising the effects of depression experienced by victims of conflicts, deaths and shocks, we may help mitigate these incidents’ overall economic impact in society.”