research institute for compassionate economics

Social disadvantage and mental health: A developing country perspective

Studies from the United States document important racial gaps in health. In developing
societies, research on social disadvantage and health is more limited. Mental
health, in particular, is poorly understood relative to its disease burden. Our study
contributes the first population-level analysis of mental health disparities in India,
where the two marginalized groups that we study constitute a population larger than
that of the United States. Applying two complementary empirical strategies to data
on 10,125 adults interviewed by the WHO SAGE, we document and decompose gaps
in mental health between the dominant social group (higher caste Hindus) and two
marginalized social groups (Scheduled Castes and Muslims). We find that differences
in socioeconomic status cannot fully explain the large disparities in mental health
that we document, for either marginalized group. Our results highlight the need for
policies that move beyond redistribution to reduce violence and discrimination.

Published: Population Research and Policy Review       Geography: India
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