Skip to main content

Table 2 Description of studies examining the health impact of social assistance (N = 17)

From: The impact of social assistance programs on population health: a systematic review of research in high-income countries

Authors Country Relevant question Study design Health outcome Findings
Baigi et al. (2008) [22] Sweden How does the health of social assistance recipients compare to that of non-recipients? Descriptive: Cross-Sectional Health behavioursPsychological symptomsPhysiological symptoms Relative to non-recipients, recipients of social assistance reported worse psychological and physiological health and worse health-related behaviours. For example, they reported higher rates of anxiety (OR 2.73, 95% CI 2.11-3.53), hand/knee pain (OR 2.33, 95% CI 1.79-3.03), and smoking (OR 4.59, 95% CI 3.56-5.93).
Basu et al. (2016) [23] United States How did welfare reform affect the health of social assistance recipients? Quasi-Experimental Health behaviours Among low-income single mothers, welfare reform was associated with an 8.8% increase in rates of smoking (95% CI 6.8%-10.8%) and an 8.3% increase in rates of binge drinking (95% CI 4.7%-12.0%)
Butterworth (2003) [24] Australia How does the health of social assistance recipients compare to that of non-recipients? Descriptive:Cross-Sectional Psychological symptomsMental disorders Relative to non-recipients, social assistance recipients reported higher rates of psychological symptoms (OR 2.77, 95% CI 2.38-3.24) and mental disorders (OR 1.92, 95% CI 1.64-2.26)
Butterworth et al. (2011) [25] Australia How does the health of social assistance recipients compare to that of non-recipients? Descriptive:Cross-Sectional Mental disorders Relative to non-recipients, social assistance recipients reported higher rates of mental disorders. For example, unemployed recipients were 60% more likely (95% CI 1.02-2.54) to report a mental disorder compared to non-recipients.
Dooley and Prause (2002) [26] United States What is the association between a transition into social assistance and health among women? Descriptive: Longitudinal Health behavioursPsychological symptoms A transition into social assistance was associated with a higher frequency of depressive symptoms (β=0.06, p<0.05) and higher rates of binge drinking (OR 2.06, p<0.05).
Ensminger and Juan (2001) [38] United States What is the association between baseline receipt of social assistance and later health outcomes among low-income mothers? Descriptive: Longitudinal Chronic conditionsPsychological symptomsSelf-rated health Relative to non-recipients, mothers who received social assistance during young or middle adulthood reported higher rates of poor self-rated health (OR 2.51, p<0.05), higher rates of psychological distress (OR 1.82, p<0.10), and a higher frequency of depressive symptoms (β=0.17, p<0.10)
Ford et al. (2010) [27] United Kingdom Does the receipt of social assistance mitigate the adverse health consequences of unemployment? Descriptive: Cross-Sectional Psychological disorders Among the unemployed, recipients of social assistance reported higher rates of psychological disorders than their non-recipient counterparts (OR 2.85, 95% CI 2.07-3.92)
Jayakody et al. (2000) [28] United States How does the health of social assistance recipients compare to that of non-recipients? Descriptive: Cross-Sectional Psychological disorders Relative to non-recipients, social assistance recipients reported higher rates of psychological disorders (OR 1.35, p<0.05).
Kiely and Butterworth (2013) [29] Australia What is the longitudinal association between social assistance recipiency and health? Descriptive:Longitudinal General mental health Movement into social assistance recipiency was associated with worse mental health scores (β=-2.45, p<0.001)
Løyland et al. (2011) [30] Norway How does the health of social assistance recipients compare to the health of non-recipients? Descriptive: Cross-Sectional Psychological symptoms Relative to non-recipients, social assistance recipients reported a higher frequency of psychological symptoms, including higher rates of sadness, fearfulness, and hopelessness.
Muennig et al. (2013) [36] United States How did welfare reform affect the health of social assistance recipients? Experimental Mortality Relative to the non-participant control group, social assistance recipients who participated in the Florida Family Transition Program experienced a 16% higher mortality rate (95% CI 14%-19%).
Narain et al. (2017) [31] United States How did welfare reform affect the health of social assistance recipients? Quasi-Experimental Self-rated health Among white low-income single mothers, welfare reform was associated with a 7.0% increase in the prevalence of poor self-rated health (95% CI 1%-12%). Significant estimates were not found among other racial subgroups.
Rodriguez (2001) [32] GermanyUnited KingdomUnited States Does the receipt of social assistance mitigate the adverse health consequences of unemployment? Descriptive: Longitudinal Self-rated health Among the unemployed, recipients of social assistance reported higher rates of poor self-rated health relative to non-recipients in Germany (OR 2.23, 95% CI 1.14-4.35), the United Kingdom (OR 1.59, 95% CI 1.08-2.35), and the United States (OR 2.41, 95% CI 1.43-4.06).
Rodriguez et al. (1997) [33] United States Does the receipt of social assistance mitigate the adverse health consequences of unemployment? Descriptive: Cross-Sectional Depressive symptomsSelf-rated health Among the unemployed, recipients of social assistance reported a higher frequency of depressive symptoms (β=10.8, 95% CI 5.23-16.2) relative to their non-recipient counterparts.
Rodriguez et al. (2001) [34] United States Does the receipt of social assistance mitigate the adverse health consequences of unemployment? Descriptive: Longitudinal Depressive symptoms Among the unemployed, recipients of social assistance reported a higher frequency of depressive symptoms in both the short and long term relative to their non-recipient counterparts.
Vozoris and Tarasuk (2004) [35] Canada How does the health of social assistance recipients compare to that of non-recipients? Descriptive: Cross-Sectional Chronic conditionsDepressionSelf-rated health Relative to non-recipients, social assistance recipients reported significantly higher rates of poor self-rated health (OR 3.9, 95% CI 2.8-5.3), depression (OR 2.7, 95% CI 1.9-4.0), diabetes (OR 2.4, 95% CI 1.3-4.4), and obesity (OR 1.6, 95% CI 1.1-2.3).
Wilde et al. (2014) [37] United States How did welfare reform affect the health of social assistance recipients? Experimental Mortality Relative to the non-participant control group, social assistance recipients who participated in the Connecticut Jobs First initiative reported a sizeable though statistically insignificant increase in mortality (OR 1.13, 95% CI 0.87-1.46).