Older Men, Minorities Report Lower Rates of Treatment for Depression
Older men, African Americans and Latinos with clinical depression reported significantly lower rates of treatment than other participants surveyed in a national study led by UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute researchers.
Overall, less than one in three depressed older adults studied had received potentially effective treatment for depression in the last three months. The survey is part of the largest study of depression treatment in older adults published to date.
Writing in the April edition of the peer-reviewed Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, the researchers also found that while a majority of study participants indicated a preference for depression counseling to antidepressant medication, antidepressants were more commonly used in the clinics studied.
“Our findings suggest that we are still not meeting the medical needs of millions of depressed older adults,” says Dr. Jürgen Unützer, an associate professor of psychiatry at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA who directed the study-coordinating center at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute. “The challenge in treating late-life depression clearly goes beyond writing an initial antidepressant prescription. Considerable effort is needed to monitor outcomes and match treatments to the clinical needs and preferences of individual patients over time.”
A total of 1,801 depressed adults aged 60 and above were surveyed at 18 primary-care clinics in California, Indiana, North Carolina, Texas and Washington. Researchers gathered an array of sociodemographic information, assessed the severity of depression symptoms, and gathered data on previous depression treatments and chronic medical problems.
The study also found that men were consistently less likely to report lifetime or recent depression treatment than women.
“Older men may have different attitudes from those of older women, such as a need to ‘handle problems themselves’ and not asking for help, and some attach more stigma to depression,” Unützer says. “Although most research on gender differences in quality of care for chronic medical disorders find that men receive better care, depression may be one condition for which men receive lower quality care than women.”
African Americans and Latinos surveyed also reported substantially lower rates of depression care. The survey showed 68.2 percent of White participants reported any lifetime depression care, while just 53.6 percent of African Americans and 55.7 percent of Latinos reported such care.
“Older adults from these minority groups may experience special barriers to depression care, including financial challenges, differences in symptoms, mistrust of providers, fear of stigma, and limited access to mental-health professionals, particularly providers with minority backgrounds,” adds Unützer. “Special efforts should be directed to improving access to culturally competent depression care for depressed older Latinos and African Americans.”
For more information on the study visit the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute: <www.npi.ucla.edu>.
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