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Up or Down? Intergenerational Mental Health Transmission and Cash Transfers in South Africa


  • Katherine Eyal

    (SALDRU, School of Economics, University of Cape Town)

  • Justine Burns

    (School of Economics, University of Cape Town)


We investigate the intergenerational transmission of depression in South Africa from parents to teens, and the positive role income shocks (in the form of cash transfers) can play to reduce this transmission effect. South Africa is characterised by high levels of mental illness, concurrent with poor access to the appropriate care. The consequences of untreated psychiatric disorders are profound, especially in the formative period of adolescence. A dearth of research and data exists in South Africa in this area. We use the National Income Dynamics Survey, the only recent nationally representative survey which collects data both on mental illness and socio-economic factors. Cash transfers are found to be particularly important as a protective factor against teens developing mental illness, and specifically for those teens with parents who themselves suffer from mental illnesses. Pensions are also found to be a positive factor for teen mental health. Using a number of methods, we find that the impact of parental depression on child depression is high - one third of children (adult or teen) who have parents who suffer from depression will themselves suffer from depression. We investigate the temporal nature of this relationship and find that it is mainly current parental depression and current CSG receipt which are important - gaining the grant between waves, and having a parent who suffers from depression in previous waves does not significantly impact on one's current mental health status.

Suggested Citation

  • Katherine Eyal & Justine Burns, 2016. "Up or Down? Intergenerational Mental Health Transmission and Cash Transfers in South Africa," SALDRU Working Papers 165, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town.
  • Handle: RePEc:ldr:wpaper:165

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jane Goudge & Steven Russell & Lucy Gilson & Tebogo Gumede & Steve Tollman & Anne Mills, 2009. "Illness-related impoverishment in rural South Africa: Why does social protection work for some households but not others?," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 21(2), pages 231-251.
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    12. Datta, Saugato & Burns, Justine & Maughan-Brown, Brendan & Darling, Matthew & Eyal, Katherine, 2015. "Risking it all for love? Resetting beliefs about HIV risk among low-income South African teens," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 184-198.
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    Cited by:

    1. Strulik, Holger, 2016. "Myopic misery: Maternal depression, child investments, and the neurobiological poverty trap," Center for European, Governance and Economic Development Research Discussion Papers 294, University of Goettingen, Department of Economics.
    2. Katherine Eyal & Lindokuhle Njozela, 2016. "What Difference Does A Year Make? The Cumulative Effect of Missing Cash Transfers on Schooling Attainment," SALDRU Working Papers 186, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town.

    More about this item


    Intergenerational transmission; Depression; Cash Transfers; Mental Illness; National Income Dynamics Study; South Africa;

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