Public Release: 

23 Percent Of Welfare Recipients Have A Major Psychiatric Disorder

American Sociological Association

SAN FRANCISCO --- While education and job training are most often offered in programs to help move aid recipients from welfare to work, a new study suggests that mental health services, too, may be needed to lower the barriers to self sufficiency. The findings will be presented Saturday August 22 at the 93rd Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.

Researchers discovered that 23 percent of welfare recipients had either major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder or agoraphobia. Seventeen percent of low-income single mothers not on welfare had such disorders.

Dawn Stauffer, doctoral candidate in human development and family studies, and Rukmalie Jayakody, Assistant Professor of Human Development and Family Studies and a research associate at Penn State's Population Research Institute, conducted the study. Stauffer will present the findings in a paper, "Prevalence of Mental Health Problems Among Welfare Recipients: Implications for Welfare Reform," at the American Sociological Association's Annual Meeting, to convene at the San Francisco Hilton and Towers Hotel, August 21-25.

The situation may be even worse than Stauffer and Jayakody's research indicates. "Our findings actually underestimate the effects of psychiatric disorders since the full battery of possible mental health problems was not considered." Jayakody said.

The study also looked at low income women who were not welfare recipients and found that 17 percent had at least one of the major psychiatric disorders listed above.

The study considered data from 2,609 single mothers, with annual personal incomes less than $20,000, who had been interviewed in the 1994 and 1995 waves of the National Household Survey of Drug Abuse (NHSDA). Only 44 percent of the women had received welfare during the previous year since not all women eligible for Aid to Families with Dependent Children actually receive it. Ethnically, the sample was 46.6 percent White, 36.3 percent Black and 17.1 percent Hispanic.

Over five thousand participants are expected at the ASA Annual Meeting, August 21-25 at the San Francisco Hilton and Towers Hotel. for hundreds of sessions and presentations on topics including immigration, affirmative action, families and children, health care, and welfare. Journalists are invited to register in the media office, located in rooms 1-2 Union Square on the 4th floor of the San Francisco Hilton, 333 O'Farrell Street.

Contact the ASA media office during the annual meeting (August 20-25) at (415) 923-7549.

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