Depressive symptoms in adolescence as a predictor of employment quality in young adulthood

Presentation First Author: 
Kathryn Sabella


Depression during young adulthood is common and can have long-lasting impact on schooling, training, and early work experiences. Employment quality is important to one’s overall socioeconomic status and well-being. Low employment quality indicators include low wages, lack of benefits and limited opportunities for advancement typically found in entry-level service positions lacking occupational complexity and independence. Based on cross-sectional research with older adults, we know that individuals with mental illness primarily work in low quality jobs that they are dissatisfied with. Adolescents with high depressive symptoms attain less education and are less likely to work in young adulthood than their peers, however, little is known about the quality of employment in young adulthood among these individuals.


To obtain a better understanding of the long-term impacts of depressive symptoms on employment quality and satisfaction during young adulthood.


The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (AddHealth) is a nationally representative survey of high school students that began in the 1994-95 school year. Depressive symptoms at Wave 1 are measured using a modified 19-item version of the Center for Epidemiological Studies – Depression (CES-D) and were categorized into three groups (minimal, moderate and severe depressive symptoms). Bivariate and ordinal logistic regression were used to explore the impact of depressive symptoms in adolescence (Wave I, average age 16) on employment outcomes (availability of benefits, amount of repetitive tasks, satisfaction, and relation to career goals) in young adulthood (Wave IV, average age 29).


High adolescent depressive symptoms were significantly associated with several young adulthood employment options. Individuals with high depression had a lower likelihood of being employed in a job that offered health benefit and a higher likelihood of being employed in a job with frequent repeated tasks. Individuals with severe depressive symptoms were less likely to be satisfied with their young adulthood job and to be in a job related to their career goals. Education attainment appears to play a pivotal role in this relationship.


Adolescent depression has an impact on employment quality and satisfaction in young adulthood. Service workers and parents need to be aware of the long-term consequences of adolescent depression on employment quality and education attainment. The protective effects of higher education against low quality jobs in young adulthood may be especially important for depressed adolescents.

Conference Name: 
Date of Presentation: 
9th Oct 2015
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