Risk Factors for Serious Psychological Distress among Pregnant Women and Mothers with Children less than One Year of Age: An Evaluation of National Health Interview Survey Data (1997–2016)

Maria F. Pugo, Jim E. Banta, Albin Grohar, Ronald Mataya, Queen-Ivie Egiebor, Robert Avina, Naomie Olivos


Objective: This study examined individual factors associated with serious psychological distress (SPD) in mothers. Methods: The study used National Health Interview Survey data (1997-2016), with analysis being restricted to pregnant women and non-pregnant mothers whose youngest child was 12 months old or younger. The Andersen framework, a reliable tool to study health services, was used to examine the effect of individual predisposing, enabling, and need factors. Results: Of 5,210 women, 13.3% had SPD, as determined by the Kessler-6 scale. Compared to those without SPD, those with SPD were more likely to be 18 to 24 years old (39.0% vs. 31.7%; all P values < .001), never have been married (45.5% vs. 33.3%), not have completed high school (34.4% vs. 21.1%), have a family income below 100% of the federal poverty level (52.5% vs. 32.0%), and have public insurance (51.9% vs. 36.3%). Furthermore, women with SPD had a lower proportion of “excellent” health status (17.5% vs. 32.7%). Multivariable regression found that having any formal education was associated with a lower likelihood of perinatal SPD than was not completing high school. For example, the bachelor’s degree odds ratio was 0.48 (95% CI: 0.30, 0.76). A receiver operator curve analysis revealed that individual predisposing factors (e.g. age, marital status, and education), accounted for more explained variation than did enabling or need factors. Conclusion: There are high levels of poor maternal mental health. Prevention and clinical services should focus on mothers with less than a high school education and those reporting poor physical health.


perinatal; pregnancy; psychological distress; mothers; poverty

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