Depression in Racial / Ethnic Minorities
Minorities With Depression Face Barriers To Getting Help
Because of shifts in the US population, by the year 2010, approximately 33% of the US population is expected to be Asian/Pacific Islander, African American, Native American, or of Hispanic origin. Higher levels of poverty and relatively lower levels of education among ethnic/racial minority groups may place some members of those groups at significant risk for mental health problems.
In addition, cultural and language barriers and lack of awareness by primary care physicians in identifying mental illness, especially for ethnic/racial minorities, make it difficult for some to access the US health care systems. Low rates of health care insurance among minorities are complicating factors. There is a serious gap between the need for mental health and substance abuse treatment and their accessibility or availability to minorities.
- Primary care physicians are less likely to detect mental health problems, including depression, among African American and Hispanic patients than among whites.
- Women who are poor, on welfare, less educated, unemployed and from ethnic/racial minority populations are more likely to experience depression.
- Ethnic/racial minorities were less likely to receive treatment for depression in 1997. Of adults who received treatment, 16% were African American, 20% Hispanic, and 24% white.
- Ethnic/racial minorities were less likely to receive treatment for schizophrenia in 1997. Of adults who received treatment, 26% were African American, 39% were white; figures for Hispanics were:
US Suicide Rates Per 100,000 (1997)
- American Indian or Alaska Native - 11.4
- Asian or Pacific Islander - 7.0
- Black or African American - 6.3
- Hispanic - 6.4
- White - 12.3
Suicide Attempts By Adolescents In Rates Per 100,000 (1997)
- Hispanic or Latino - 2.8
- Non-Hispanic Black or African American 2.4
- White (non-Hispanic) - 2.0
Substance Abuse / Addiction
Data from three large national surveys estimated the prevalence of substance use, abuse and addiction within racial/ethnic subgroups.
- The prevalence of substance use, alcohol dependence, and need for illicit substance abuse treatment among Asian/Pacific Islanders are low relative to those of the total US population.
- The percentage of Asian/Pacific Islanders who reported being current users of illicit drugs in 1999 was 3.2%
- Mexicans and Puerto Ricans have high prevalence of illicit drug use, heavy alcohol use, alcohol dependence, and need for drug abuse treatment.
- More than 40% of all Hispanic women in the US with AIDS contracted it through injecting drugs.
- Native Americans have very high prevalence of past-year substance use, alcohol dependence, and need for illicit drug abuse treatment.
- The percentage of American Indian/Alaskan natives who reported being current users of illicit drugs in 1999 was 10.6%
- The majority of AIDS cases among African American women and children are attributable to alcohol or illicit drug use.
- The percentage of African Americans who reported being current users of illicit drugs in 1999 was 7.7%
Risk factors for substance abuse are the same across cultures. Therefore, all people who fall into the following groups are at risk regardless of racial/ethnic subgroup. Unfortunately, ethnic/racial minorities are more likely to have such risk factors and may be at greater risk for substance abuse and addiction.
Risk factors include low family income, residence in the Western U.S., residence in metropolitan areas with populations greater than 1 million, tendency to use English rather than Spanish, lack of health insurance coverage; are unemployed, have not completed high school, have never been married, reside in households with fewer than two biological parents, have relatively high prevalence of past-year use of cigarettes, alcohol, and illicit drugs.
Last Updated: 10 July 2017
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD