Article Data

  • Views 253
  • Dowloads 114

Original Research

Open Access

Does education matter? Income inequality and mental health among young adult men

  • Jaewon Lee1,*,
  • Jennifer Allen2

1Department of Social Welfare, Inha University, 22212 Incheon, Republic of Korea

2School of Social Work, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA

DOI: 10.22514/jomh.2023.015

Submitted: 02 September 2022 Accepted: 08 February 2023

Online publish date: 23 February 2023

*Corresponding Author(s): Jaewon Lee E-mail:


The impacts of income and education on mental health have been understudied among young adult men. This study aims to explore the association between income and depression among young adult men, to examine how educational attainment influences depression, and to investigate how educational attainment moderates the relationship between income and depression among young adult men. We used the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 79 for Children and Young Adults (NLSY79 CY). A total of 1084 young adult men were selected for the final sample. The PROCESS macro 3.4 for Statistical Product and Service Solutions was used for analysis. Both income and educational attainment were negatively related to depression among young adult men. We found a significant interaction effect, indicating that educational attainment moderated the relationship between income and depression among young adult men. The effect of educational attainment on depression was greater for young adult men who earned a lower income compared to those who earned a higher income. Job training programs and other employment assistance should be provided to young adult men to help them to gain employment and job security, as well as to indirectly reduce their levels of depression. Increased access to higher education may also help men attain higher-paying jobs, which may buffer against depression. We suggest that men who have not received higher education receive access to job training programs and programs for job searching and career development to bolster their earnings potential, which thus may reduce depression.


Education; Income; Depression; Young adult men

Cite and Share

Jaewon Lee,Jennifer Allen. Does education matter? Income inequality and mental health among young adult men. Journal of Men's Health. 2023.doi:10.22514/jomh.2023.015.


[1] Mojtabai R, Olfson M, Han B. National trends in the prevalence and treatment of depression in adolescents and young adults. Pediatrics. 2016; 138: e20161878.

[2] National Institute of Mental Health. Major depression. 2022. Available at: (Accessed: 20 February 2023).

[3] Villarroel MA, Terlizzi EP. Symptoms of depression among adults: United States, 2019. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Atlanta, GA, USA. 2020.

[4] American Psychological Association. Upfront: by the numbers: men and depression. Monitor on Psychology. 2015; 46: 13.

[5] Brody DJ, Pratt LA, Hughes JP. Prevalence of depression among adults aged 20 and over: United States, 2013–2016. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Atlanta, GA, USA. 2018.

[6] Kessler RC, Petukhova M, Sampson NA, Zaslavsky AM, Wittchen H. Twelve-month and lifetime prevalence and lifetime morbid risk of anxiety and mood disorders in the United States. International Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research. 2012; 21: 169–184.

[7] Hakulinen C, Elovainio M, Pulkki-Råback L, Böckerman P, Viinikainen J, Pehkonen J, et al. Depressive symptoms and long-term income: the young Finns study. Journal of Affective Disorders. 2016; 204: 120–123.

[8] Kim HK, Capaldi DM, Stoolmiller M. Depressive symptoms across adolescence and young adulthood in men: predictions from parental and contextual risk factors. Development and Psychopathology. 2003; 15: 469–495.

[9] McCarty CA, Kosterman R, Mason WA, McCauley E, Hawkins JD, Herrenkohl TI, et al. Longitudinal associations among depression, obesity and alcohol use disorders in young adulthood. General Hospital Psychiatry. 2009; 31: 442–450.

[10] Tekbaş OF, Ceylan S, Hamzaoğlu O, Hasde M. An investigation of the prevalence of depressive symptoms in newly recruited young adult men in Turkey. Psychiatry Research. 2003; 119: 155–162.

[11] Watkins DC, Green BL, Rivers BM, Rowell KL. Depression and black men: implications for future research. The Journal of Men’s Health & Gender. 2006; 3: 227–235.

[12] Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. 2021 poverty guidelines. 2021. Available at: 2021-poverty-guidelines (Accessed: 20 February 2023).

[13] Chlapecka A, Kagstrom A, Cermakova P. Educational attainment inequalities in depressive symptoms in more than 100 000 individuals in Europe. European Psychiatry. 2022; 65: S269.

[14] Cohen AK, Nussbaum J, Ritterman Weintraub ML, Nichols CR, Yen IH. Association of adult depression with educational attainment, aspirations, and expectations. Preventing Chronic Disease. 2020; 17: E94.

[15] Fujiwara T, Kawachi I. A prospective study of individual-level social capital and major depression in the United States. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health. 2008; 62: 627–633.

[16] McFarland MJ, Wagner BG. Does a college education reduce depressive symptoms in American young adults? Social Science & Medicine. 2015; 146: 75–84.

[17] Ross CE, Mirowsky J. Sex differences in the effect of education on depression: resource multiplication or resource substitution? Social Science & Medicine. 2006; 63: 1400–1413.

[18] Shen W. A tangled web: the reciprocal relationship between depression and educational outcomes in China. Social Science Research. 2020; 85: 102353.

[19] Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Education at a Glance 2019. OECD Publishing: Paris. 2019.

[20] Tamborini CR, Kim C, Sakamoto A. Education and lifetime earnings in the United States. Demography. 2015; 52: 1383–1407.

[21] Bauldry S. Variation in the protective effect of higher education against depression. Society and Mental Health. 2015; 5: 145–161.

[22] Zimmerman FJ, Katon W. Socioeconomic status, depression disparities, and financial strain: what lies behind the income-depression relationship?Health Economics. 2005; 14: 1197–1215.

[23] U.S. Bureau of labor statistics. economic news release: employment and unemployment among youth summary. 2022. Available at: (Accessed: 20 Febru-ary 2023).

[24] Radloff LS. The CES-D scale: a self-report depression scale for research in the general population. Applied Psychological Measurement. 1977; 1: 385–401.

[25] Preacher KJ, Hayes AF. SPSS and SAS procedures for estimating indirect effects in simple mediation models. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, & Computers. 2004; 36: 717–731.

[26] Preacher KJ, Hayes AF. Asymptotic and resampling techniques for assessing and comparing indirect effects in multiple mediator models. Behavioral Research Methods. 2008; 40: 879–891.

[27] Frank MW. Inequality and growth in the United States: evidence from a new state-level panel of income inequality measures. Economic Inquiry. 2009; 47: 55–68.

[28] Horowitz JM, Igielnik R, Kochhar R. 1. Trends in income and wealth inequality. Pew Research Center. 2020. Available at: https: // (Accessed: 20 February 2023).

[29] Bavinton BR, Chan C, Hammoud MA, Maher L, Haire B, Degenhardt L, et al. Increase in depression and anxiety among Australian gay and bisexual men during COVID-19 restrictions: findings from a prospective online cohort study. Archives of Sexual Behavior. 2022; 51: 355–364.

[30] Ettman CK, Cohen GH, Abdalla SM, Sampson L, Trinquart L, Castrucci BC, et al. Persistent depressive symptoms during COVID-19: a national, population-representative, longitudinal study of U.S. adults. The Lancet Regional Health-Americas. 2021; 5: 1000091.

Abstracted / indexed in

Science Citation Index Expanded (SciSearch) Created as SCI in 1964, Science Citation Index Expanded now indexes over 9,200 of the world’s most impactful journals across 178 scientific disciplines. More than 53 million records and 1.18 billion cited references date back from 1900 to present.

Journal Citation Reports/Science Edition Journal Citation Reports/Science Edition aims to evaluate a journal’s value from multiple perspectives including the journal impact factor, descriptive data about a journal’s open access content as well as contributing authors, and provide readers a transparent and publisher-neutral data & statistics information about the journal.

Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) DOAJ is a unique and extensive index of diverse open access journals from around the world, driven by a growing community, committed to ensuring quality content is freely available online for everyone.

SCImago The SCImago Journal & Country Rank is a publicly available portal that includes the journals and country scientific indicators developed from the information contained in the Scopus® database (Elsevier B.V.)

Publication Forum - JUFO (Federation of Finnish Learned Societies) Publication Forum is a classification of publication channels created by the Finnish scientific community to support the quality assessment of academic research.

Scopus CiteScore 0.7 (2021) Scopus is Elsevier's abstract and citation database launched in 2004. Scopus covers nearly 36,377 titles (22,794 active titles and 13,583 Inactive titles) from approximately 11,678 publishers, of which 34,346 are peer-reviewed journals in top-level subject fields: life sciences, social sciences, physical sciences and health sciences.

Norwegian Register for Scientific Journals, Series and Publishers Search for publication channels (journals, series and publishers) in the Norwegian Register for Scientific Journals, Series and Publishers to see if they are considered as scientific. (

Submission Turnaround Time