Depression Undertreated in Blacks in United States

Chronicity and disease severity higher in African Americans and Caribbean blacks

MONDAY, March 5 (HealthDay News) -- Despite meeting treatment criteria, only one-quarter of Caribbean blacks and less than half of African Americans with major depressive disorder receive therapy, according to the results of a study published in the March issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

David R. Williams, Ph.D., of Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues assessed the prevalence, persistence, treatment and disability of depression in 6,082 individuals, 891 of whom were non-Hispanic whites, 1,621 Caribbean blacks and 3,570 African Americans.

At 17.9 percent, whites had the highest lifetime prevalence of major depressive disorder, followed by Caribbean blacks at 12.9 percent and African Americans at 10.4 percent. Persistence of major depressive disorder was 56.5 percent in African Americans, 56 percent in Caribbean blacks and 38.6 percent in whites. Only 45 percent of African Americans and 24.3 percent of Caribbean blacks who met treatment criteria received major depressive disorder therapy. Compared to whites, more blacks rated their major depressive disorder as severe or very severe and more disabling.

"Future research should explore the extent to which social support systems, including religious participation and psychological resources, such as high levels of self-esteem, can provide some protection to the black population from exposure to adverse social conditions," the authors write.

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