Study Finds a Significant Racial Disparity in Depression Among Older American Adults

A study led by scientists at Harvard Medical School found far higher rates of depression among older Black adults than was the case for older non-Hispanic White adults. Researchers surveyed more than 25,000 adults over the age of 50. They found that members of racial and ethnic minority groups were up to twice as likely to report more severe depressive symptoms than non-Hispanic White participants.

Although the study did not find a significant gender difference in depression severity, older Black women with clinically significant depressive symptoms were found to be least likely to receive treatment through antidepressant medications or counseling. “These disparities are striking given findings that older Black adults appear as likely as older White adults to derive benefit from treatment when it is offered,” wrote the authors.

“There are good data and serious concerns that a range of social, racial and ethnic populations have understandable high rates of depression, and that even when there is access to care, depression is not recognized or treated,” said Dr. Carolyn M. Mazure, director of Women’s Health Research at Yale. “It is important that we recognize depression in all populations and seek to treat clinical depression even when someone may have a reason to be depressed.”

The full study, “Association of Race and Ethnicity With Late-Life Depression Severity, Symptom Burden, and Care,” was published on the JAMA Open Network of the Journal of American Medical Association. It may be accessed here.

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