A new study by researchers in the School of Social Work at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond and the School of Social Work at the University of Maryland finds that older African Americans living in U.S. counties with a higher population of Black residents are less likely to pursue mental health treatment than other African American seniors.
The study did not find an explanation for why older African Americans living in areas with a higher population of Black residents were less likely to pursue mental health care. However, it does put forward several possible contributing factors.
For one, older African American adults are more likely to live in disadvantaged areas with limited access to mental health care, possibly resulting in lower service utilization. The study also suggests that older African Americans living in counties with a higher percentage of African Americans may be less likely to seek out mental health care because of historical and contemporaneous discrimination by the health care system and mistrust of medical professionals. Yet another possible explanation is that older African Americans may be more likely to discuss concerns with clergy or church members, rather than through mental health treatment.
The full study, “The Role of County Characteristics in Mental Health Service Use by Older African Americans,” was published on the website of the journal Psychiatric Services. It may be accessed here.