Economic disadvantage and depressive symptoms among Arab and Jewish women in Israel: the role of social support and formal services

Meital Simhi*, Miriam Schiff, Ruth Pat-Horenczyk

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Depression is a major public health concern due to its high prevalence and association with functioning. Ethnic minorities in Western countries are more likely to experience economic disadvantage and exposure to stressors that may put them at higher risk of developing depression. One major protective factor associated with reduced depressive symptoms is an existing support network. This study examined the associations between economic disadvantage, formal and informal social support, and depressive symptoms among two ethnicity groups in Israel: Arab and Jewish mothers of young children, as well as the potential mediating role of formal and informal social support in the associations between economic disadvantage and depressive symptoms. Design: We recruited a representative sample of 837 Jewish and Arab mothers of children aged 2–6 years. We collected data via structured face-to-face interviews following approval of the university ethic committee. We used the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D), the Medical Outcomes Study (MOS) scale to measure maternal perceived social support, and a measure designed for this study to quantify formal social support. Results: Compared to the Jewish mothers, Arab mothers reported more depressive symptoms, greater economic disadvantage, and fewer informal and formal support networks. Economic disadvantage was negatively associated with informal support but positively associated with formal support among both Jewish and Arab mothers. Results further revealed that informal and formal social support mediated the associations between economic disadvantage and symptoms of depression. Conclusions: More attention should be paid to the associations between social determinants and mothers’ mental health, with a possible shift of focus to macro-level factors, such as economic inequality and minority status.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)220-238
Number of pages19
JournalEthnicity and Health
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

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© 2023 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Economic disadvantage
  • depressive symptoms
  • ethnicity
  • formal social support
  • informal social support
  • mothers


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