Skip to main content

Original Research

Education Mitigates the Relationship of Stress and Mental Disorders Among Rural Indian Women

  • Nisha Fahey
  • Apurv Soni
  • Jeroan Allison
  • Jagdish Vankar
  • Anusha Prabhakaran
  • Tiffany A. Moore Simas
  • Nancy Byatt
  • Ajay Phatak
  • Eileen O'Keefe
  • Somashekhar Nimbalkar



Common mental disorders (CMD) are a constellation of mental health conditions that include depression, anxiety, and other related nonpsychotic affective disorders. Qualitative explanatory models of mental health among reproductive-aged women in India reveal that distress is strongly associated with CMD. The relationship of perceived stress and CMD might be attenuated or exacerbated based on an individual's sociodemographic characteristics.


To screen for Common Mental Disorders (CMD) among reproductive-aged women from rural western India and explore how the relationship between perceived stress and CMD screening status varies by sociodemographic characteristics.


Cross-sectional survey of 700 women from rural Gujarat, India. CMD screening status was assessed using Self-Reported Questionnaire 20 (SRQ-20). Factors associated with CMD screening status were evaluated using multivariable logistic regression. Effect modification for the relationship of perceived stress and CMD screening status was assessed using interaction terms and interpreted in terms of predicted probabilities.


The analytic cohort included 663 women, with roughly 1 in 4 screening positive for CMD (157, 23.7%). Poor income, low education, food insecurity, and recurrent thoughts after traumatic events were associated with increased risk of positive CMD screen. Perceived stress was closely associated with CMD screening status. Higher education attenuated the relationship between high levels of stress and CMD screening status (82.3%, 88.8%, 32.9%; P value for trend: 0.03). Increasing income and age attenuated the link between moderate stress and CMD.


Our findings suggest a high burden of possible CMD among reproductive-aged women from rural western India. Higher education might mitigate the association between elevated stress and CMD. Future efforts to improve mental health in rural India should focus on preventing CMD by enhancing rural women's self-efficacy and problem-solving capabilities to overcome challenging life events and stressors, thereby reducing the risk of CMD.

Published on Mar 8, 2017
Peer Reviewed