The need for mental health services research focusing on poor young women. Article

Miranda, Jeanne, Green, Bonnie L. (1999). The need for mental health services research focusing on poor young women. . 2(2), 73-80. 10.1002/(sici)1099-176x(199906)2:2<73::aid-mhp40>;2-3

cited authors

  • Miranda, Jeanne; Green, Bonnie L



  • Despite the fact that the relationship between poverty and increased risk for a broad spectrum of mental disorders has been documented for several decades, very little is known about providing mental health treatments to poor individuals. In this paper, we emphasize the importance of developing, and empirically evaluating, sensitive and appropriate interventions for poor young women who suffer from common mental disorders. WHO ARE THE US POOR?: In the US, nearly 14% of individuals live in poverty, and another 20% in near poverty. The poor are disproportionally women and children such that 63% of female-headed households are poor. Young women and ethnic minorities are over-represented among the poor also, with 55% of those living below the poverty level being minorities. NEEDS AND BARRIERS TO CARE AMONG POOR, YOUNG WOMEN: The poor have more mental disorders than those with more resources. Further, women are twice as likely as men to have a mood or anxiety disorder, including major depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with younger women at higher risk than older women. Research alos indicates that poor women have high exposure to traumatic events and cumulative adversity that is directly related to their mental health. This history may serve, in part, as a barrier to seeking mental health care. Other barriers in this population include lack of insurance, lack of access to primary care where mental disorders might be detected, practical problems like lack of childcare or transportation, and the inflexibility of low-income service jobs. Religious beliefs and attitudes about mental health treatment may play a role as well. Recent policy changes in the US have contributed to the vulnerability of this group as eligibility for welfare programs has reduced, and time limits have decreasd. Services for immigrants are also severely limited, and managed care strategies for those in the public sector may be confusing. IMPORTANT, UNANSWERED QUESTION: More needs to be learned about the mental health status and needs of poor women, along with the impact of loss of public support on their physical and mental health. Access to mental health care within a managed care setting also needs to be addressed, and care taken to understand the particular needs of poor populations that will actually make these services accessible to them. Insufficient attention has thus far been paid to the cost implications of providing these services to the poor. While providing treatment is associated with significant costs, the costs of not providing care, especially the effects of depression on offspring, should not be overlooked. CHALLENGES TO EXAMINING MENTAL HEALTH IN POOR WOMEN: A number of suggestions were made for addressing practical and methodological challenges to providing mental health services. These include placing services for these individuals within their familiar medical settings, which requires close working relationships between psychiatric and medical personnel within these settings. Outreach is a necessary part of getting poor women into treatment, and should be a routine part of helping women become engaged with caregivers. Providing culturally sensitive treatments is an important focus too, through developing knowledge about the culturally based customs and expectations of target groups. Measurement issues need to be attended to, as most research instruments have been developed on middle class populations, and have not been examined for their psychometric properties and norms in less advantaged groups. Careful translation techniques are also required. Finally, working with institutions sponsoring research to educate them about special problems and challenges with these groups will help improve the quality and efficiency of the work accomplished.

publication date

  • June 1, 1999


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start page

  • 73

end page

  • 80


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