Financial stress has been proposed as an economic determinant of depression. However, there is little systematic analysis of different dimensions of financial stress and their association with depression. This paper reports a systematic review of 40 observational studies quantifying the relationship between various measures of financial stress and depression outcomes in adults. Most of the reviewed studies show that financial stress is positively associated with depression. A positive association between financial stress and depression is found in both high-income and low-and middle-income countries, but is generally stronger among populations with low income or wealth. In addition to the “social causation” pathway, other pathways such as “psychological stress” and “social selection” can also explain the effects of financial stress on depression. More longitudinal research would be useful to investigate the causal relationship and mechanisms linking different dimensions of financial stress and depression. Furthermore, exploration of effects in subgroups could help target interventions to break the cycle of financial stress and depression.
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