Date: 17 Sep 2008

The Mental Health Benefits of Work: Do They Apply to Welfare Mothers with a Drinking Problem?

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A longstanding tradition of employment-related research has shown the mental health advantages of employment. However, given welfare reform mandates for employment and a welfare population with disproportionately high rates of depression and co-occurring substance abuse problems, it is unclear if women on welfare reap this advantage. This analysis draws on 4 years of data from the Welfare Client Longitudinal Study to examine the mental health benefits of employment among women on welfare (N = 419) and to assess whether drinking problems alter the relationship. Repeated measures analyses suggest that women who enter welfare with a drinking problem may not experience the same decline in depression symptoms following employment. Improving the connections between welfare and treatment services for women with alcohol problems may, however, have important implications for their mental health.

This study was made possible by grants from the U.S. National Institutes on Health, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to the Alcohol Research Group, Public Health Institute, including: Center Grant (AA-05595), R01 Project Grant (AA-10015), R21 Grant for Secondary Analysis of Existing Health Services Data (AA-12159) and T32 Training Grant (AA-007240). A previous version of this paper was presented at the Addiction Health Services Research (AHSR) Conference, “Understanding the Community Perspective,” Little Rock, AR, October 23–25, 2006.