International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Previous studies reflect a high prevalence of depressive symptoms among Taiwanese adolescents (ages 13–18), but there is an absence of literature related to the risk of depression of children in Taiwan (ages 6–12), particularly among potentially vulnerable subgroups. To provide insight into the distribution of depressive symptoms among children in rural Taiwan and measure the correlation between academic performance, we conducted a survey of 1655 randomly selected fourth and fifth-grade students at 92 sample schools in four relatively low-income counties or municipalities. Using the Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression Scale (CES-D) we assessed the prevalence of depressive symptoms in this sample, in addition to collecting other data, such as performance on a standardized math test as well as information on a number of individual and household characteristics. We demonstrate that the share of children with clinically significant symptoms is high: 38% of the students were at risk of general depression (depression score ≥ 16) and 8% of the students were at risk of major depression (depression score > 28). The results of the multivariate regression and heterogeneous analysis suggest that poor academic performance is closely associated with a high prevalence of depressive symptoms. Among low-performing students, certain groups were disproportionately affected, including girls and students whose parents have migrated away for work. Results also suggest that, overall, students who had a parent who was an immigrant from another country were at greater risk of depression. These findings highlight the need for greater resource allocation toward mental health services for elementary school students in rural Taiwan, particularly for at-risk groups.