Children of blue-collar workers in India face higher risks of depression and anxiety


Key Points:

  • Children of blue-collar workers in India face higher risks of depression and anxiety due to economic stress.
  • Parental job stress in blue-collar families significantly impacts children’s mental health.
  • Limited access to quality education and extracurricular activities worsens mental health issues for these children.
  • Economic stability, job security, and workplace safety can reduce stress and improve children’s mental well-being.
  • Enhancing access to mental health services, providing educational support, and reducing stigma are crucial for supporting these children’s mental health.

In India, there is a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds, and many people work blue-collar jobs. These jobs, which include roles in manufacturing, construction, maintenance, and similar fields, can bring about specific challenges that affect the well-being of workers and their families. Research has shown that children of blue-collar workers have higher chances of having mental health problems like depression and anxiety compared to children from wealthier or parents from white-collar jobs. This dissimilarity indicates why mental health issues have to be addressed alongside socio-economic conditions improvements.

Understanding The Factors Underlying Mental Health Disparities

The leading cause of high levels of mental health problems among children of blue-collar workers is due to stress emanating from their families’ socio-economic situation. Wages for blue-collar workers are generally lower than those for white-collar workers; they work longer hours and have less job security. Research published in the National Library of Medicine has shown that economic stress is a significant predictor of anxiety and depression in children. The study found that children from lower-income families reported higher levels of stress and emotional issues compared to their peers from higher-income households.

The Role of Parental Stress in Children’s Mental Well-Being

The well-being of children is closely linked to the stress and mental health of their parents. Blue-collar workers often face high levels of job-related stress due to physically demanding work, unsafe conditions, and a lack of control over their job environment. However, this stress may spill over into family life and affect how parents interact with their children. According to one study, children whose parents undergo a lot of workplace pressure tend to develop anxiety disorders as well as depression. This research points out the necessity for addressing parental stress to improve children’s mental health issues.

Read More: Intersections of Poverty and Mental Health: Revisiting the Gap 

Challenges in Education and the Impact on Mental Health

Children from blue-collar families often encounter difficulties in their education, which can further contribute to mental health problems. Limited financial resources may mean these children have less access to quality schooling and extracurricular activities, leading to lower academic performance and decreased self-esteem. Additionally, they might also face social stigma and discrimination both at school and within their communities due to their socio-economic status. 

Read More: Discussing Discrimination Through Mental Health Lens

The Influence of Home Environment on Children’s Well-Being

The home environment is crucial in a child’s development, including their mental well-being. Unfortunately, due to economic stress and limited resources, blue-collar families may have less time and energy to dedicate to their children’s emotional needs. This can increase behavioural problems and substance abuse issues as kids try to cope with stress and emotional neglect. 

According to Assistant Professor and Psychotherapy Practitioner, Dr Navya Pande, “The nature of blue-collar jobs varies significantly. Some involve pure manual labour, while others might differ slightly. Correspondingly, the wages or salaries earned also vary. The reasons for working, the work circumstances, and the environment all differ as well. Various factors influence the lives of these workers, including their education levels, the specific jobs they hold, and their corresponding salaries. These factors collectively impact their family life, especially their relationships with their children.

Typically, we assume that blue-collar workers earn less and often face job insecurity, with employment being uncertain from one day to the next. This job insecurity significantly affects their relationship with their children and the quality of schooling they can afford. Given their financial constraints, such workers are more likely to enrol their children in government schools with lower fees. While government schools provide education, they might not offer the same level of skills or exposure available in private schools. Although some government schools are excellent, admission into these schools can be competitive due to limited seats. Generally, children in government schools might lack certain facilities and exposure, affecting their overall development.

The main factor influencing this situation is the family’s financial status, which is often linked to the nature of blue-collar jobs. The lower income can deprive children of the opportunities and facilities that enhance their education and personal development. Additionally, the parents’ own educational status and beliefs also play a significant role. Well-educated parents with a progressive mindset might strive to provide better educational opportunities for their children, despite financial limitations. Overall, blue-collar jobs indirectly affect schooling through financial constraints.

These constraints can limit the children’s access to better educational resources, hindering their personal growth and development. The family’s financial condition, stemming from the parents’ job nature, is the primary factor impacting the quality of schooling and exposure the children receive.

Policy Implications and Recommendations

Economic Policies

Economic stability is critical in improving children’s mental health in blue-collar homes. Instigating policies that will enhance the security of a job may significantly reduce the economic uncertainty many families face, thereby lowering the stress experienced by children.

In addition, policies that ensure a safe working environment are crucial. Safer workplaces reduce the risk of accidents and health problems for workers, directly impacting their families’ well-being. Furthermore, wage improvement helps families afford basic needs, relieving financial pressure that often results in anxiety and depression among children. These economic measures would unite to create a more secure and supportive environment for children.

Increased Access to Mental Health Services

Accessibility to mental health services is one of the essential elements in meeting the needs of the children of blue-collar workers. By investing in mental health infrastructure, the government can guarantee that children from all demographic backgrounds and locations- rural, low-income, urban, or many others – can access services and get timely intervention if needed.

That includes building more mental health facilities in our communities, increasing the number of mental health professionals available to serve these communities, and investing more money in those facilities so that they can receive quality service.

Further, school-based mental health programs are also crucial in providing an early head start for the detection and intervention of children’s mental health problems. Schools may provide counselling services, stress management workshops, and mental health education, which can develop a framework that identifies the needful children to extend help.

Educational Support

Educational support is one of how the stressors children from blue-collar workers’ homes face can be mitigated. Scholarships enable children to access better learning opportunities, reducing the financial barriers that bring stress.

This may include providing after-school programs that offer academic support, extracurricular activities, and a safe space. They would help in the educational and social development of the children. School counselling services can also be established to help students cope with their academic pressures and personal matters to better their lives.

These educational aids can help children develop themselves academically and socially and overcome some of the challenges their socioeconomic status brings.

Reducing Stigma

Part of building a supportive environment for the children of blue-collar workers has to do with reducing the stigma associated with mental health and socioeconomic status. Public awareness campaigns can be carried out so that people understand mental health issues and the importance of seeking help. In this case, stigma is reduced, and more people will be encouraged to go for mental health services. Local initiatives on mental health education and support groups should be advanced to help people see that discussing mental health is normal. The support groups can help reduce social isolation.

Mental health in children of blue-collar workers is an issue of interest in India, as it requires urgent attention. Economic stress, parental job strain, educational challenges, and unavailability of mental health services will provide a conducive environment for the creation of mental health problems. India can create a more encouraging environment for these children by undertaking comprehensive economic, academic, and healthcare reforms to ensure they can live healthy and fulfilled lives.

According to Assistant Professor, Riddhita Parikh, “If the employee feels safe and secure at the workplace, and the environment is conducive to positivity, with sufficient liberties, their mental health and personal relationships, particularly with colleagues, are nurtured. In such a positive environment, employees are likely to feel happy at work. When employees are happy at the workplace, they carry this positivity home, fostering a positive approach towards their family. Conversely, if the job is stressful and the employee is constantly under pressure, they may become filled with rage and anger, which could be displaced onto their children when they return home. Therefore, a positive work environment not only benefits the employee but also indirectly supports the well-being of their family.

References +
  • Reiss, F., Meyrose, A., Otto, C., Lampert, T., Klasen, F., & Ravens-Sieberer, U. (2019). Socioeconomic status, stressful life situations and mental health problems in children and adolescents: Results of the German BELLA cohort-study. PloS One, 14(3), e0213700.
  • Fisher, B. (2023, November 6). Behind the Blue: The Untold Truths of Blue-Collar Work and its silent battles — Brent Fisher. Brent Fisher.
  • Mohammadi, A., Ghavamabadi, L. I., Silavi, M., & Dehaghi, B. F. (2022). Cognitive functions and anxiety among blue-collar workers in hospitals during COVID-19 pandemic. Frontiers in Public Health, 10.
  • Elser, H., Rehkopf, D. H., Meausoone, V., Jewell, N. P., Eisen, E. A., & Cullen, M. R. (2019). Gender, depression, and blue-collar work. Epidemiology, 30(3), 435–444.
  • J, P. (2024, May 20). ‘Children of blue-collar parents more prone to depression.’ The Times of India.
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