Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

, Volume 52, Issue 1, pp 105–116 | Cite as

Education as a social pathway from parental socioeconomic position to depression in late adolescence and early adulthood: a Finnish population-based register study

  • Kaarina KorhonenEmail author
  • Hanna Remes
  • Pekka Martikainen
Original Paper



There is inconsistent evidence for social differentials in the risk of depression in youth, and little is known about how education at this age influences the risk. We assess how parental socioeconomic position (SEP) and education predict depression from late adolescence to early adulthood, a time of major educational transitions.


We followed a nationally representative 20 % sample of Finnish adolescents born in 1986–1990 (n = 60,829) over two educational transitory stages at the age of 17–19 and 20–23 covering the years 2003–2011. We identified incident depression using health care register data. We estimated the risk of depression by parental SEP and personal education using Cox regression, adjusting for family structure, parental depression and the individual’s own psychiatric history.


Lower parental income was associated with up to a twofold risk of depression. This effect was almost fully attributable to other parental characteristics or mediated by the individual’s own education. Educational differences in risk were attenuated following adjustment for prior psychiatric history. Adjusted for all covariates, not being in education increased the risk up to 2.5-fold compared to being enrolled in general upper secondary school at the age of 17–19 and in tertiary education at the age of 20–23. Vocationally oriented women experienced a 20 % higher risk than their academically oriented counterparts in both age groups.


Education constitutes a social pathway from parental SEP to the risk of depression in youth, whereby educational differences previously shown in adults are observed already before the establishment of adulthood SEP.


Adolescence Depression Early adulthood Education Life course Socioeconomic position 



The study was supported by the Academy of Finland.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

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


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kaarina Korhonen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Hanna Remes
    • 1
  • Pekka Martikainen
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Population Research Unit, Department of Social ResearchUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.Centre for Health Equity Studies (CHESS)Stockholm University and Karolinska InstitutetStockholmSweden
  3. 3.Max Planck Institute for Demographic ResearchRostockGermany

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