Risk of Major Depressive Episodes After Separation: The Gender-Specific Contribution of the Income and Support Lost Through Union Dissolution

  • Anne-Lise Biotteau
  • Carole Bonnet
  • Emmanuelle CamboisEmail author


Marital status and union dissolution are strongly associated with health. Separated men and women have a mental health disadvantage compared to partnered individuals. The lower financial and social resources of separated individuals partly explained their poorer health. However, it is unclear whether this association is due to the loss in income and support precisely experienced through the separation. Due to the frequent asymmetry in partners’ individual resources within couples, these losses are gender-specific, giving rise to a debate currently in France. As part of this debate, we explored to what extent gender-specific losses contribute to the separation/mental health association. We used the two-wave survey “Health and Occupational Trajectories,” looking at 7321 individuals aged 25–74 in couple in 2006. We analyzed their depressive symptoms self-reported at second wave (2010) and their association with separation between the two waves; we took into account the concomitant social and income changes, as well as the socioeconomic and health situation in 2006. Separation between 2006 and 2010 is significantly associated with depressive symptoms in 2010, independently of the situation in 2006; it is associated with a loss of income, mainly in women, and a loss of support, slightly more pronounced in men. Nested logistic models indicate that the loss of support explained 5.5% of the separation/mental health association in men; the loss of income explained 19.2% of it in women. In France, an economic penalty of separation still primarily affects women and substantially contributes to the mental health vulnerability of newly separated women.


Mental health Gender Union dissolution Socioeconomic determinants France 



We would like to thank the reviewers whose comments and suggestions on the earlier version of the manuscript helped us to improve our paper. This research was founded by the French Solidarity Fund for Autonomy (CNSA) and the Social Security Scheme for Self-Employed Workers (RSI) in the framework of a call for project of the French institute of public health research (IRESP) [no. AAP-2011-01].

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Authors and Affiliations

  • Anne-Lise Biotteau
    • 1
    • 2
  • Carole Bonnet
    • 1
  • Emmanuelle Cambois
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Institut national d’études démographiquesParis Cedex 20France
  2. 2.Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques (INSEE)ParisFrance

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