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Researchers find disparities in depression among older Hispanics in US

Older Puerto Ricans have higher rates of depression than other Hispanics living in the United States, according to a new study by researchers at Hebrew SeniorLifes Institute for Aging Research (IFAR).

Nearly 7 percent of Puerto Ricans, who make up 11 percent of the Hispanics 65 and older in the U.S., suffer from major depression, compared to Mexican Americans, Cuban Americans, and Hispanics from Central and South America. Only 2.8 percent of Mexican Americans (46.7 percent of the older Hispanic population) and 2.5 percent of Cuban Americans (13 percent) suffer from major depression.

We found the prevalence of depression across Hispanic groups in the United States to be highest in Puerto Ricans, even though this was the smallest group, the researchers wrote in the Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences.

Funded in part by the National Institute on Aging, the study was conducted by IFAR scientists Frances M. Yang, Ph.D., and Richard N. Jones, Sc.D., along with Yamileth Cazorla-Lancaster of the University of North Texas School of Public Health.

The researchers examined differences in the levels of depressive symptoms and the presence of depression in 759 Hispanics over the age of 59. Data was obtained from the University of Michigans Health and Retirement Study and its Asset of Health Dynamics of the Oldest Old (AHEAD) study.

The heterogeneity of Hispanics living in the U.S underscores the complexity of investigating intragroup differences in mental health. Generalizing findings from one particular Hispanic group to all Hispanic groups, the researchers say, may not accurately reflect the burden of health in specific Hispanic groups.

Our findings support the hypothesis that the assumption of homogeneity of the prevalence of depression across Hispanic groups is not tenable, says Dr. Yang, a research assistant scientist at IFAR who specializes in the mental health of older adults. Furthermore, Puerto Ricans experienced a significantly higher number of depressive symptoms and prevalence of depression than did the three Hispanic groups in the study.

Yang and her colleagues say that further research is needed to determine Puerto Ricans exposure to factors that account for higher prevalence of depression than other Hispanic groups and whites living in the U.S.


Contact: Scott Edwards
Hebrew SeniorLife Institute for Aging Research

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