Racial and ethnic minority adolescents less likely to receive treatment for major depression

Feb 22, 2011

Adolescence can herald the onset of major depression and the associated short- and long-term consequences including developmental and social impairment. Research that focuses on access to treatment for adolescents with depression can shine a bright light on the persistent disparities based on race and ethnicity. Unfortunately such research reinforces the fact that equitable mental health care across all individuals and communities has yet to be achieved.

In a study in the February 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP), researchers from the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory in Atlanta, Georgia analyzed five years of data (2004-2008) collected from the National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). The study evaluated a national representative sample of 7,704 adolescents, from 12 to 17 years of age, who were diagnosed with major depression within the past year. Researchers studied the differences in treatment for depression across four racial/ethnic groups of adolescents with major depression (i.e., non-Hispanic whites, blacks, Hispanics, and Asians).

The NSDUH samples non-institutionalized individuals 12 years and older from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The survey is conducted annually, in both English and Spanish, and is sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Administration.

In the article titled "Racial/Ethnic Differences in Mental Health Service Use Among Adolescents With Major Depression," Dr. Janet R. Cummings and Dr. Benjamin G. Druss report that after adjusting for demographics and health status, the percentage of non-Hispanic whites who received any major depression treatment was 40% compared with 32% in blacks, 31% in Hispanics, and 19% in Asians. Black, Hispanic, and Asian adolescents were also significantly less likely than non-Hispanic whites to receive treatment for major depression from mental health professionals, to receive treatment for major depression from medical providers, and to have any mental health outpatient visits, with Asians exhibiting the lowest rate of service use on each measurement.

The adjustment for socioeconomic status and health insurance status accounted for only a small portion of the estimated differences in major depression treatment measurements and outpatient utilization across racial/ethnic groups. Other factors, such as stigma and limited proficiency in English, possibly contributed to the lower rates of service use in Hispanics and Asians.

Notably, one fourth of all adolescents with major depression received school-based counseling. Dr. Cummings and Dr. Druss state that, "Investment in quality improvement programs implemented in primary care settings as well as school-based mental health services may reduce unmet need for mental health services in all adolescents with and reduce the sizeable differences in service use across racial/ethnic groups." Furthermore the researchers report, "Unlike treatment in outpatient settings, we did not find any significant racial/ethnic differences in the receipt of inpatient treatment."

In a related editorial Dr. Nicholas J. Carson states, "Given the serious consequences of , which are not limited to suicide, substance abuse, and academic failure, these low rates are tragic." Dr. Carson continues, "Future research will also need to clarify how a disproportionately low supply of mental health providers in minority communities affects disparities in access to services."

Explore further: Mothers don't speak so clearly to their babies

More information: References

1. Cummings JR, Druss BG. Racial/Ethnic Differences in Mental Health Service Use Among Adolescents With Major Depression. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; 2011; 50:160-170.

2. Carson NJ. The Devil You Know: Revealing Racial/Ethnic Disparities in the Treatment of Adolescent Depression. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; 2011; 50:106-107.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study finds racial disparities in smoking cessation treatment

Apr 24, 2008

A new study from the American Cancer Society finds black and Hispanic smokers are less likely than whites to receive and use smoking cessation advice and aids. The study, published in the May issue of the American Journal of ...

Recommended for you

Mothers don't speak so clearly to their babies

Jan 23, 2015

People have a distinctive way of talking to babies and small children: We speak more slowly, using a sing-song voice, and tend to use cutesy words like "tummy". While we might be inclined to think that we ...

Explainer: What is sexual fluidity?

Jan 23, 2015

Sexual preferences are not set in stone and can change over time, often depending on the immediate situation the individual is in. This has been described as sexual fluidity. For example, if someone identifies as heterosexual but th ...

Lucky charms: When are superstitions used most?

Jan 23, 2015

It might be a lucky pair of socks, or a piece of jewelry; whatever the item, many people turn to a superstition or lucky charm to help achieve a goal. For instance, you used a specific avatar to win a game and now you see ...

Low-income boys fare worse in wealth's shadow

Jan 22, 2015

Low-income boys fare worse, not better, when they grow up alongside more affluent neighbors, according to new findings from Duke University. In fact, the greater the economic gap between the boys and their neighbors, the ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.