Disparities in Minority Mental Health

Elderly blacks less likely than elderly whites to receive a depression diagnosis or treatment

Researchers examining racial and ethnic disparities in the diagnosis and treatment of depression among the elderly found that 4.2 percent of blacks received a diagnosis of depression compared to 6.4 percent of whites, 7.2 percent of Hispanics, and 3.8 percent of other groups. Blacks who were diagnosed were also less likely to be treated for depression than non-Hispanic whites. For example, among blacks diagnosed with depression, 39.6 percent did not receive treatment compared with 27.0 percent of whites. These differences in depression diagnosis and treatment remained significant, even after adjusting for income, education, insurance coverage, perceived access to care, and other factors.

The authors point out that differences in depression diagnosis rates among racial/ethnic groups may be the result of both differences in underlying rates of pathology and underdiagnosis of depression in certain groups. They also suggest a need to look at other factors, including racial/ethnic differences in depression help-seeking behaviors, stigma, knowledge, and attitudes. They conclude that vigorous clinical and public health initiatives are needed to address this persistent disparity in care. The study used data on 12,353 Medicare beneficiaries drawn from the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (2001–2005). It was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS16097).

See “Racial and ethnic disparities in depression care in community-dwelling elderly in the United States,” by Ayse Akincigil, Ph.D., Mark Olfson, M.D., Michele Siegel, Ph.D., Karen A. Zurlo, Ph.D., and others in the February 2012 American Journal of Public Health 102(2), pp. 319-328.

–Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality


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