A qualitative study of factors affecting mental health amongst low-income working mothers in Bangalore, India

Travasso, Sandra Mary; Rajaraman, Divya; Heymann, Sally Jody
February 2014
BMC Women's Health;2014, Vol. 14 Issue 1, p1
Academic Journal
Background Low-income urban working mothers face many challenges in their domestic, environmental, and working conditions that may affect their mental health. In India, a high prevalence of mental health disorders has been recorded in young women, but there has been little research to examine the factors that affect their mental health at home and work. Methods Through a primarily qualitative approach, we studied the relationship between work, caring for family, spousal support, stress relief strategies and mental health amongst forty eight low-income working mothers residing in urban slums across Bangalore, India. Participants were construction workers, domestic workers, factory workers and fruit and vegetable street vendors. Qualitative data analysis themes included state of mental health, factors that affected mental health positively or negatively, manifestations and consequences of stress and depression, and stress mitigators. Results Even in our small sample of women, we found evidence of extreme depression, including suicidal ideation and attempted suicide. Women who have an alcoholic and/or abusive husband, experience intimate partner violence, are raising children with special needs, and lack adequate support for child care appear to be more susceptible to severe and prolonged periods of depression and suicide attempts. Factors that pointed towards reduced anxiety and depression were social support from family, friends and colleagues and fulfilment from work. Conclusion This qualitative study raises concerns that low-income working mothers in urban areas in India are at high risk for depression, and identifies common factors that create and mitigate stress in this population group. We discuss implications of the findings for supporting the mental health of urban working women in the Indian context. The development of the national mental health policy in India and its subsequent implementation should draw on existing research documenting factors associated with negative mental health amongst specific population groups in order to ensure greater impact.


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