Purpose Depression is a leading cause of disability and premature mortality in the United States. Depression is also highly underdiagnosed and undertreated in African Americans and Latinos. More research is needed on the mental health and mental health needs of ethnic minority groups. This study examined the differences in symptomatology for major depression among African Americans and Latinos in a low-income, primary care clinic setting.
Methods This is a cross-sectional study using data gathered from three county clinics in Los Angeles, CA. Subjects completed a survey that assessed sociodemographic characteristics and their level of depression using a Patient Health Questionnaire Depression Scale (PHQ-9). Logistic regression models were used to compare depressive symptoms between African Americans and Latinos.
Results A total of 411 subjects were recruited, with an 83% response rate, of which 334 were African American or Latino. In general, the difference in depression symptoms, as characterized by items in the PHQ-9 scale, was not significant between the two groups. However, relative to Latinos, African Americans were more likely to be diagnosed with major depression (PHQ ≥ 10, p = 0.06, OR = 2.03) and suffer from changes to their appetite (p = .012, OR = 2.58).
Conclusions We found that most depression symptoms were similar between African Americans and Latinos but differed with regard to changes in appetite. Results also suggest a higher prevalence of major depression among African Americans when compared with Latinos. More research is needed to see if these results are generalizable and to develop interventions that can successfully detect and treat depression among Latinos and African Americans attending public sector clinics.
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