Depression affects people of all ages. But until recently, there has been no clinical evidence linking symptomology in later life to ethnicity. Researchers at the University of Michigan, the Oregon Health & Science University and VA Medical Center in Portland, Oregon, collaborated on a study to determine exactly how race influences depressive symptoms in older Americans. Statistically, older adults will continue to experience symptoms of depression that exceed the 85th percentile. In an effort to gauge which segment of the population was at increased risk for symptom prevalence, the researchers analyzed data from the Health and Retirement Study of 1995-2006, which included a sample of over 17,000 Americans who were all over age 50. The study contained observations from six different points over 11 years. The data revealed several categories of depression in the sample. Participants with low depressive symptoms represented over 36% of the sample, while those with moderate depressive symptoms had at least two symptoms throughout the study and accounted for nearly 30% of the participants. As depressive symptoms increased, fewer participants were represented, with only 3.6% of the subjects exhibiting persistently high depressive symptoms.
The researchers discovered that those with low depressive symptoms (39.5%) or minimal depressive symptoms (15.5%), were more likely to be White, as opposed to Hispanic or Black. Hispanics represented the majority of the highest symptom groups, with 8% of them falling into the high depressive symptom segment. Additionally, Hispanics also were more likely to have moderate but increasing symptoms or high but decreasing symptoms. Black Americans in the sample fell into the moderate but stable depressive symptom group most often, accounting for 35.5% of that category. The researchers believe these findings could lead to more effective prevention measures in older adults. They said, “Interventions, particularly primary and secondary prevention, can then be targeted at subgroups of older adults or elderly patients in primary care, according to key risk factors of these trajectories, (e.g., racial and ethnic minorities, women, depressive symptoms and chronic diseases at baseline).”
Liang, J., Xu, X., Quiñones, A. R., Bennett, J. M., & Ye, W. (2011, August 29). Multiple Trajectories of Depressive Symptoms in Middle and Late Life: Racial/Ethnic Variations. Psychology and Aging. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0023945
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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