Among elderly, depression more prevalent in Hispanics and blacks

Elderly Hispanics and African Americans have higher rates of depression than their white counterparts, due largely to greater health burdens and lack of health insurance, a Northwestern University study has found.

The study, published in the November online issue of the American Journal of Public Health, showed that major depression was most prevalent among Hispanics 10.8 percent -- followed by almost 9 percent in African Americans and approximately 8 percent in whites in this age group.

The odds of depressive disorders among older Hispanics were 44 percent greater than among whites, representing a significantly greater prevalence of major depression, said lead author Dorothy D. Dunlop, research associate professor at the Institute for Health Services Research and Policy Studies at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University.

The study, which evaluated almost 7,700 adults aged 54 to 65 for racial/ethnic differences in rates of major depression and examined possible mediators, also found that younger age, female gender, being widowed or divorced, living alone and providing care for a parent each significantly increased the odds of depression.

The strong association of caregiving with major depression is comparable to the well-known risk of depression resulting from the loss of a spouse through death or divorce, Dunlop said.

"This finding points to the potential importance of providing social support for caregivers to reduce the burden associated with this complex role," she said.

All health needs, including chronic diseases, such as arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity, as well as functional limitations and health behaviors, were significantly associated with major depression.

Physical limitations were the factor most strongly associated with major depression, more than doubling the odds of depression after other factors had been taken into account, the authors said. The strong association

Contact: Elizabeth Crown
Northwestern University

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