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Educational inequalities in major depressive and generalized anxiety disorders: results from the French national SIP study

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Social inequalities in mental disorders have been reported; the lower the social position, the higher the prevalence of mental disorders. However, these inequalities have not always been observed and results may vary according to the indicator of social position, mental health outcome and population studied. The objective of this study was to examine the association between social position (educational level) and two mental disorders (major depressive disorder—MDD and general anxiety disorder—GAD), measured using a structured diagnostic interview (MINI), and to evaluate the contribution of work status in the explanation of this association.


The study was based on a national representative sample of the French general population of 11,777 people including 8,072 workers. All analyses were done using weighted data. Bivariate Rao–Scott Chi-square tests were conducted, and multivariate analysis was performed using weighted logistic regression analysis with adjustment for age.


The prevalences of MDD/GAD and of less educated people were lower in the working population than in the non-working population. Educational inequalities were observed for MDD and GAD in the general population. Non-working status contributed to explain these inequalities by 23–28 % for MDD and by 23–37 % for GAD when the less educated group was considered. Non-working status was strongly associated with both disorders.


These results may improve our knowledge on educational inequalities in mental health and help to understand the discrepancies in the literature. Effort to preserve jobs and facilitate the return to employment may help to reduce social inequalities in mental health.

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The authors thank the members of the DARES, DREES, CEE and INSEE, and all the people who participated to the SIP survey and made this study possible. This study was founded by the French Ministry of Labour (DARES, Grant No 2200727156).

Conflict of interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Isabelle Niedhammer.

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Murcia, M., Chastang, J. & Niedhammer, I. Educational inequalities in major depressive and generalized anxiety disorders: results from the French national SIP study. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 50, 919–928 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00127-015-1010-9

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  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Social position
  • Educational level
  • Social inequalities in mental health