Racial/ethnic disparities exist in the diagnosis, treatment of depression

March 1, 2012

Minorities are less likely to receive a depression diagnosis and be treated for it than non-Hispanic Whites, according to a new study published on-line and ahead-of-print on December 15, 2011, in the American Journal of Public Health.

Minorities are less likely to receive a depression diagnosis and be treated for it than non-Hispanic Whites, according to a new study published on-line and ahead-of-print on December 15, 2011, in the American Journal of Public Health.

In their report, the researchers highlight, "Depression is a significant public health concern for older Americans." They continued, "If untreated or undertreated, depression can significantly diminish quality of life and increase mortality."

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 6.6% of the older adults in the United States may experience a major depressive disorder in any given year.

Their analysis found depression diagnosis rates to be 6.4% for non-Hispanic Whites, 4.2% for African Americans, 7.2% for Hispanics, and 3.8% for others races/ethnicities. After adjusting for a range of covariates using logistic regression, data suggested African Americans were significantly less likely to be diagnosed with depression by a healthcare provider compared to non-Hispanic Whites (adjusted odds ratio [AOR]=0.53; 95% CI=0.41–0.69); and those whom were diagnosed, were less likely to be treated for depression (AOR=0.45; 95% CI=0.30–0.66).

Efforts are needed to reduce the burden of undetected and untreated depression and to identify the barriers that generate disparities in detection and treatment," the researchers said.

Among their top recommendations to address these disparities in depression diagnosis and treatment was universal depression screening and ensuring access to care in low-income and minority neighborhoods.

This study was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health and by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.