Background: Prior studies on health disparity have shown that socioeconomic status is critical to inequality of health outcomes such as depression. However, two questions await further investigation: whether disparity in depression caused by socioeconomic status will become larger when depression becomes severer, and whether digital technology will reduce the disparity in depression caused by socioeconomic status. Our study aims to answer the above two questions.
Methods: By using the dataset from China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study 2015, we use quantile regression models to examine the effect of socioeconomic status on depression across different quantiles, and test the moderating effect of digital technology.
Results: Our study obtains four key findings. First, the negative effects of socioeconomic status on depression present an increasing trend at high quantiles. Second, Internet usage exacerbates the disparity in depression caused by education level on average, but reduces this disparity caused by education level at high quantiles. Third, Internet usage reduces the disparity in depression caused by income on average and at high quantiles. Fourth, mobile phones have almost no moderating effect on the relationship between socioeconomic status and depression.
Conclusions: Our findings suggest the potential use of digital technology in reducing disparity in depression caused by socioeconomic status among middle-aged and aged individuals in developing countries.