Depression Tied to Hopelessness in Whites More Than Blacks

New research links depression to hopelessness, especially among whites. Hopelessness is associated with suicide which may correspond to the increasing incidence of suicide among middle-aged white males, say University of Michigan researchers.

The research led by Dr. Shervin Assari found a strong reciprocal association between depressive symptoms and hopelessness among whites over the age of 65, while the association was missing among blacks of the same age.

Assari and colleague Dr. Maryam Moghani Lankarani from the Medicine and Health Promotion Institute in Iran found that despite higher levels of depressive symptoms, African-Americans reported some level of hope, compared to whites.

Investigators studied nearly 1,500 people with depressive symptoms and hopelessness measured at baseline as well as three years later.

When the reciprocal associations were tested based on race, the link between depression and sense of hopelessness were present among whites but not blacks.

Authors also found interactions suggesting that among white Americans, each additional symptom of depression is associated with 27 percent more hopelessness.

The study appears in the journal Frontiers in Public Health.

“Hopelessness is one of the most important predictors of outcomes as well as course of depression,” Assari said.

“So, the level of hopelessness of depressed individuals tells us a lot about their treatment response as well as suicide risk.”

Recent statistics from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention show that white males account for seven out of 10 suicides. The researchers said that “more hopeless depression” may explain the higher tendency for suicide among whites.

“In general, people of nonwhite cultures better maintain hope overall, even at darkest moments of their lives. Social support and religion are among the reasons,” Assari said.

“Not only do whites get less social support from families and friends, they are also less religious overall. We know social support and religiosity are big savers against suicide and psychopathology.

“That said, research also has shown that even when social support and religiosity are at the same levels, they are less effective for whites compared to blacks.”

Researchers believe the study findings imply that therapists should consider ethnicity when working with depressed clients.

“Whites who are depressed need more boost of hope as one of the ingredients of their counseling,” explains Assari.

Source: University of Michigan