African Americans just as likely to be diagnosed with depression


New York, NY A study in the May Journal of the American Geriatrics Society combats the notion that ethnic differences and inherent biases are responsible for a lower number of depression diagnoses in the African American elderly population versus whites.

Researchers fromMichigan surveyed nearly 180 primary care providers, randomly assigning them to view one of four videos exhibiting commonly accepted traits of a depressed older adult. The actors used in the videos worked from the same script and differed only by race and/or sex. Eighty-five percent of providers correctly diagnosed the "patient" on the video they were assigned.

"Primary care providers are just as likely to diagnose and treat depression in older African Americans as in whites, suggesting that bias based simply on apparent patient race is not a likely explanation for the lower rates of depression diagnosis and treatment in older African Americans," according to researchers.

The study notes that the management of depression is especially critical in the elderly due to already existing and multiple illnesses. Further, studies show that older adults are less likely to seek specific mental health treatment from psychiatrists, turning solely to their primary care physicians.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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