Impact of Community-based Depression Treatment in India

This project aims to identify and examine the effects of pharmacotherapy on depression and possible pathways that may link mental health and economic behaviour.


Depression is often neglected in current health policy debates on chronic disease care in low-resource settings, despite its sizable economic and social impact on those affected. Depression is strongly associated with low earnings, low productivity, reduced human capital investments and low levels of social participation. Given the likely bi-directional causal relationship between mental health and socioeconomic outcomes, depression is likely to be a major driver of health-related poverty traps and a key obstacle to health-led economic development.

Depression treatment may have health benefits and improve socioeconomic outcomes. For developing countries, it is particularly important to understand the economic impact of depression and find effective and scalable treatments. Despite a high need for treatment, the supply of mental health care in low-income countries is constrained by several barriers such as lack of resources, scarcity of trained healthcare providers, infrastructure for mental health services and social stigma around mental health disorders.


The purpose of the proposed intervention is at least threefold: To (1) evaluate the impact of depression treatment on (mental) health and socioeconomic outcomes; (2) evaluate the impact of economic assistance on depression; and (3) assess whether economic circumstances moderate the impact of depression treatment. To achieve this goal, the study will collaborate with the international non-profit organisation Basic Needs (BN) and GASS to enlist 1,500 adult women with mild or moderate depression who stand to benefit from job placement (persons suspected to suffer from severe depression will be directly referred to a medical setting).

Project Leads

Sharon Buteau


Swiss Programme for Research on Global Issues for Development, Basic Needs (BN) and GASS