NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. Despite improvements to diagnostic tools and therapies in the two last decades, significant disparities in the diagnosis and treatment of depression remain, according to Rutgers research published online by the American Journal of Public Health; print, February 2012.
In the study "Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Depression Care in Community-Dwelling Elderly in the United States," lead author Ayse Akincigil, an assistant professor in Rutgers' School of Social Work, and colleagues found that African Americans were significantly less likely to receive a depression diagnosis from a health care provider than were non-Hispanic whites. In addition, those diagnosed were less likely to be treated for depression.
"Vigorous clinical and public health initiatives are needed to address this persisting disparity in care," she said.
Depression is a significant public health problem for older Americans about 6.6 percent of elderly Americans experience an episode of major depression each year. "If untreated or undertreated, depression can significantly diminish quality of life," Akincigil said. In addition, depression can complicate such medical conditions commonly found in older populations as congestive heart failure, diabetes and arthritis.
For their study, Rutgers researchers culled data from the U.S. Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey, 2001-2005 obtaining information on health care use and costs, health status, medical and prescription drug insurance coverage, access to care and use of services. Based on a national survey of 33,708 Medicare beneficiaries, depression diagnosis rates were 6.4 percent for non-Hispanic whites, 4.2 percent for African Americans, 7.2 percent for Hispanics and 3.8 percent for others. The heterogeneity of Hispanics makes it difficult to determine why they are undertreated and their treatment preferences, Akincigil said.
"Are there cultural differences or systemic differ
|Contact: Steve Manas|