Cover: Depressive Disorder at the Household Level

Depressive Disorder at the Household Level

Prevalence and Correlates of Depressive Symptoms Among Household Members

Published in: Global Health Action, Volume 16, Issue 1 (2023). DOI: 10.1080/16549716.2023.2241808

Posted on Feb 2, 2024

by Kondwani Mpinga, Temusa Rukundo, Owen Mwale, Myrrah Kamwiyo, Limbani Thengo, Todd Ruderman, Beatrice Matanje, Fabien Munyaneza, Emilia Connolly, Kazione Kulisewa, et al.


Globally, an estimated five percent of adults have major depressive disorder. However, little is known about the relationship between these individuals' depressive symptoms and their household members' mental health and well-being.


We aimed to investigate the prevalence and predictors of depressive symptoms among adult household members of patients living with major depressive disorder in Neno District, Malawi.


As part of a cluster randomized controlled trial providing depression care to adults with major depressive disorder, we conducted surveys with patients' household members (n=236) and inquired about their overall health, depressive symptoms, disability, and social support. We calculated prevalence rates of depressive disorder and conducted multivariable linear regression and multivariable logistic regression analyses to assess correlates of depressive symptom severity and predictors of having depressive disorder (PHQ-9), respectively, among household members.


We observed that roughly one in five household members (19%) screened positive for a depressive disorder (PHQ-9>9). More than half of household members endorsed six or more of the nine symptoms, with 68% reporting feeling 'down, depressed, or hopeless' in the prior two weeks. Elevated depression symptom severity was associated with greater disability (β=0.17, p<0.001), less social support (β=-0.04, p=0.016), and lower self-reported overall health (β=0.54, p=0.001). Having depressive disorder was also associated with greater disability (adjusted Odds Ratio [aOR]=1.12, p=0.001) and less social support (aOR=0.97, p=0.024).


In the Malawian context, we find that depressive disorder and depression symptoms are shared attributes among household members. This has implications for both screening and treatment, and it suggests that mental health should be approached from the vantage point of the broader social ecology of the household and family unit.

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