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Symptom Endorsement and Sociodemographic Correlates of Postnatal Distress in Three Low Income Countries
Background: Maternal mental illness has been implicated in adverse child development outcomes. Factors such as context and culture may influence experiences of maternal distress and explain differences in outcomes across settings. Methods: We analyzed baseline data from 5,647 mothers in Ethiopia, India (Andhra Pradesh), and Vietnam participating in an ongoing cohort study (Young Lives) to compare symptom endorsement and sociodemographic correlates of distress. Maternal distress was assessed using the Self-Reporting Questionnaire-20 Items (cutoff: ≥8). Logistic regressions were stratified by sample to identify correlates of distress. Results: Symptom endorsement was similar among distressed women, particularly with regard to feeling unhappy (76%, 80%, and 79%). Notable differences were observed in three items assessing Depressive Thoughts, which weremost highly endorsed in Ethiopia (49%-56%). Having a child experiencing a life-threatening event was correlated with distress in all three samples. A variety of correlates were unique to only one sample. Conclusions: There were multiple similarities but also notable differences across sites in the expression and correlates of maternal distress. Feeling unhappy appears to be a hallmark feature of distress. Correlates highlight the relationship between distress and indicators of poverty, child wellbeing, and economic shocks. Differences demonstrate the value of further exploration of cross-cultural differences.
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