The first set of regression results, cross-sectional OLS analysis of logged depressive symptoms, is presented in . Holding constant all control variables, the results from Model 1 indicate a mental health disadvantage of cohabitation over marriage: Being in a cohabiting union is associated with almost a 19% increase in depressive symptoms.5
Model 2 indicates that higher order unions (marital or cohabiting) are associated with 31% higher depressive symptoms compared with first unions. The models in also illustrate higher depressive symptoms among divorce/separated individuals (control variable) compared with those in first unions.
Ordinary Least Squares Regression of Logged Depressive Symptoms Score on Union Type for Full Sample. Mexico Family Life Survey. N= 16,137.
Model 3 further disaggregates union status into the full set of union types: second marriages, first cohabitations, and second cohabitations, compared with first marriages. The results indicate that individuals in both higher order marital and cohabiting unions have significantly more depressive symptoms than those in first marriages. Being in a first cohabiting union (compared with first marital union) has a smaller, but still significant, effect on individuals’ depressive symptoms, indicating a potential health disadvantage of cohabitation even if it is a first union. The regression results also show that individuals in second or higher order cohabiting unions have, on average, 19% higher depressive symptoms scores than those in first cohabitations.
Control variables conform to expectations: Younger age at first union, being female, living in an urban area, lower education, having more children, and having fewer adults in the household are associated higher depressive symptoms. (See .)
provides the results for women in this sample. Among women, cohabitation is associated with a 21% increase in depressive symptoms, and being in a higher order union is associated with a 38% increase. Model 3 reveals that women in second marriages have an estimated 42% higher depressive symptoms score, on average, than those in first marriages. Being in a second or higher order cohabitation is also worse than both a first marriage (39% higher) and a first cohabitation (26% higher). These results suggest that what matters for depressive symptoms among Mexican women is whether they have repartnered (through marriage or cohabitation) rather than whether the union is formal (marriage) or informal (cohabitation).
Ordinary Least Squares Regression of Logged Depressive Symptoms Score on Union Type for Mexican Women: Mexico Family Life Survey, N = 8,975
Results for the sample men are presented in . In general, the effects for men are similar to those for women and gender interactions were not statistically significant. However, the final disaggregated model indicates that, although first cohabiting and first marital unions do not carry different mental health benefits for women, men are disadvantaged by first cohabiting compared with first marital unions, with depressive symptoms scores 20% higher, on average, in first cohabitations. Like women, men suffer more depressive symptoms in second or higher order cohabiting unions compared with first marriages (approximately 28% higher). Unlike women, higher order marriages did not differ significantly from first marriages for men. For men, the key difference seems to be the formal status of the union, with cohabiting unions, both first and second, being associated with higher average depressive symptoms than first marriages among men.
Ordinary Least Squares Regression of Logged Depressive Symptoms Score on Union Type for Mexican Men: Mexico Family Life Survey, N = 7,162
Most control variables operated similarly for men and women. However, it is worth noting the significant positive associations between depressive symptoms and the number of children ever born and current work status for women. This suggests that role strain and multiple work/family responsibilities may be a source of mental health issues for women in the contemporary Mexican context. Among men, their depressive symptoms scores were not associated with number of children and were negatively associated with work status, indicating possible mental health benefits for men of assuming the culturally supported role of family provider.
provide a summary of the results from the change models, where the coefficients represent individual-level change in depressive symptoms scores between 2002 and 2005 with entrance into a given union type compared with remaining in a stable union.6
The purpose of these models is to assess whether the OLS results are supported when unobserved, time-invariant differences among individuals are removed from the models. The variables of interest are prospective transitions into different types of unions. Exiting a union was also included in the models but was not differentiated by union type because of the small number of transitions out of unions during this time. Full-sample and gender-specific model results are presented in .
Change in Depressive Symptoms Regressed on Change in Union Type: Mexico Family Life Survey (Reference Group = Stable Union)
As Model 1 in indicates, in the full sample, transitioning into a cohabiting union in 2002-2005 was associated with significantly higher change in depressive symptoms scores compared with those who remained in stable unions. Transitioning into a new marriage was not significantly different from being in a stable union or transitioning into a new cohabiting union. Model 2 shows that in the full sample, depressive symptoms increase by 1.4 points more when Mexican adults enter a higher order union compared with remaining in a stable union (p < .05) and by 1.3 points more than when entering a first union (p < .1). Model 3, with the full range of prospective changes in union type, indicates that change in depressive symptoms increases more when individuals enter a higher order marriage or a first cohabitation compared with those in stable unions (p < .1) and compared with those who entered a first marriage (p < .05).
When stratified by gender, the results from Model 1 suggest that cohabitation increases depressive symptoms among men, but not women, compared with being in a stable union and entering a marital union (both by about 1.3 points). Comparing Model 2 results across genders shows that women experience larger increases in depressive symptoms scores than men when transitioning into a second union. Neither of these coefficients is statistically significant, though, likely because of the small number of prospective transitions into a second union by gender (n = 59 for women, n = 48 for men). Results from Model 3 for women shows that a higher order marriage is significantly associated with an increase in change in depressive symptoms compared with being in a stable union (p < .05), entering a first marriage (p < .05), and entering a first cohabitation (p < .1). For men, there is a significantly greater change in depressive symptoms when men enter a cohabiting compared with marital union: first cohabitations are worse than first marriages and second cohabitations are worse than second marriages (p<.1). Entering either a first or second cohabitation is associated with a larger increase in depressive symptoms than remaining in a stable union among men (p < .1). The Model 3 results disaggregated by gender should be interpreted cautiously, however, since they are based on relatively few cases of prospective transitions.