Objective: To investigate the association between asset wealth and mental health in New Zealand (NZ) and whether it is independent of other socioeconomic measures and baseline health status.
Methods: Data for this study was from the first three waves of the Survey of Families, Income and Employment (SoFIE) conducted in New Zealand (2002-2004/05) (N=15,340). The Kessler-10 was used as a measure of psychological distress. The association of quintiles of wealth with psychological distress was investigated using logistic regression, controlling for confounders, socioeconomic variables and prior health status.
Results: The odds of reporting high psychological distress were greater in the lowest wealth quintile compared to the highest (OR 3.06, 95% CI 2.68-3.50). Adjusting for age and sex did not alter the relationship, however adjusting for income and area deprivation attenuated the odds ratio to 1.73 (1.48 to 2.04). Further controlling for baseline health status reduced the odds ratio to 1.45 (1.23 to 1.71), although the confidence interval still excluded the null.
Conclusions: Inequalities in wealth are strongly associated with psychological distress, over and above other confounding demographic variables and baseline health status. Much, but not all, of that association is confounded by adult socioeconomic position. This suggests that policy measures to improve asset wealth, through savings and home ownership, may have positive health implications and help to reduce health inequalities.