Happily ever after? Mental health effects of early marriage in Indonesia

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Early marriage is a manifestation of gender discrimination against girls, leading to adverse consequences on their well-being. This article contributes to the literature by examining the effects of early marriage on the mental well-being of women–an area often overlooked in research. Using nationally representative longitudinal data from Indonesia and applying difference-in-differences regression model with fixed-effects, this study finds that marrying early, particularly by the age of 18 years, has a strong negative impact on women’s mental health. Specifically, women who marry early are 9.6 percentage points more likely to be depressed. It further finds that a one-year delay in marriage decreases the likelihood of women having depression by approximately four percent of the mean. These findings add to the evidence of adverse health effects of early marriage and provide a rationale for policy interventions implemented toward eradicating it. HIGHLIGHTS Marrying early, particularly by age 18, has adverse effects on women’s mental health. In Indonesia, women who married early are more likely to be depressed than women who married later. Restricted labor market mobility and poor physical health are potential mechanisms. Policy interventions must move toward eradicating early marriage.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)112-136
Number of pages25
JournalFeminist Economics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • difference-in-differences
  • Indonesia
  • Marriage
  • mental health
  • women

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