08/06/2013 12:01 EDT | Updated 10/06/2013 05:12 EDT

Postpartum depression more common in urban areas

Women living in urban centres in Canada with more than 500,000 inhabitants are at higher risk of postpartum depression than women in other areas, suggests a new study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Looking at the experiences of over 6,000 women who lived in rural, semi-rural, semi-urban or urban areas from the 2006 Canadian Maternity Experiences Survey, the study suggests that women in urban areas were at higher risk, with almost 10 per cent reporting postpartum depression compared with six per cent of women in rural areas, almost seven per cent of women in semirural areas and about five per cent in semiurban areas.

Urban areas were found to have higher numbers of immigrant populations, and more women in these areas reported lower levels of social support during and after pregnancy.

"We found that Canadian women who lived in large urban areas … were at higher risk of postpartum depression than women living in other areas," said Dr. Simone Vigod, psychiatrist at Women's College Hospital and scientist at Women's College Research Institute in Toronto.

"The risk factors for postpartum depression [including history of depression, social support and immigration status] that were unequally distributed across geographic regions accounted for most of the variance in the rates of postpartum depression."

In Canada, about 20 per cent of people live in rural or remote regions, 35 per cent live in the large urban areas of Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, with the remaining 45 per cent in semirural or semiurban areas.

The survey defined rural as people living in settlements smaller than 1,000 people or with 400 or more inhabitants per square kilometre; semirural (under 30,000), semiurban (30,000–499 999) and urban (500,000 and over).