Other characteristics that significantly increased the odds of major depression included potentially life-threatening illnesses such as cancer, heart or lung disease and stroke, limitations in activities of daily living, lack of regular exercise and tobacco use.
Having fewer economic resources -- less education, income or wealth; lack of private health insurance coverage or employment was associated with a greater frequency of depression. Reliance on government health insurance somewhat increased the odds of depression, the authors said.
"Our finding that lack of health insurance coverage is strongly associated with frequency of major depression particularly implicates the need for health insurance carriers to facilitate better access to medical care among ethnic minority groups, Dunlop and colleagues said.
Further, the strong relationship of health needs to depression frequency, including functional limitations and potentially life-threatening conditions, points to the importance of public health interventions involving disease prevention and management, they said.
"Given the clear association between frequency of major depression and greater health burden and fewer economic resources, factors common to older ethnic minority individuals, more effective treatment, public health or public policy programs that increase access to mental health care and general medical care may lead to long-term reductions in racial/ethnic disparities in depression, Dunlop and co-researchers said.