Academic Study Examines Racial Disparity in Perinatal Depression

Co-author Crystal T. Clarke, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Northwestern

A new study by researchers at the University of Illinois and Northwestern University finds that Black and Latina women, who are at increased risk of perinatal depression, are less likely that their White peers to be screened or treated for the condition.

While the mood disorder is estimated to affect about 12 to 19 percent of women in the U.S. general population, as many as 28 percent of African-American women may be affected. “African American women experience increased rates of economic hardship and other psychosocial stressors that increase their risk of perinatal depression,” according to the authors.

Along with financial obstacles, including higher poverty rates and lack of health insurance, the stigmatization of mental illness and mistrust of the health care system among the African American population may be factors in low rates of diagnosis and treatment for perinatal depression.

The authors urge federal policymakers to appropriate more funds to boost diagnosis and treatment rates among minority women, including increasing the number of medical providers in the pipeline who are trained in culturally sensitive screening and treatment methods.

The study, “Increasing Diagnosis and Treatment of Perinatal Depression in Latinas and African American Women: Addressing Stigma Is Not Enough,” was published on the website of the journal Women’s Health Issues. It may be accessed here.

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