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Depression Common among Minority Populations

One in ten U.S. adults reports that they are depressed and most do not receive appropriate treatment. In minority and immigrant populations, this lack of care is acute.

Research from the National Institute of Mental Health’s Collaborative Psychiatric Epidemiology Surveys, a study involving more than 15,000 participants, finds that Mexican Americans and African Americans are among those least likely to receive help for a condition that can make it difficult to work and, in some instances, to live. High rates of suicide and suicide attempts are found in both of these groups.

As with all illnesses and conditions, poverty and the resulting disparities in health care affect depression and its treatment – or lack thereof – among minority groups. Immigrants may additionally struggle with feelings of isolation due to language and cultural differences and distance from family and friends. If they are illegal, they are also more likely to have jobs that pay substandard wages and that are not safe.

Research presented this past spring at the Tenth International Conference on Occupational Stress & Health finds that immigrants are more likely to:

  • Work in dangerous, low-wage jobs
  • Face discrimination and differential treatment
  • Feel pressure to keep working in unsafe conditions
  • Have little opportunity for professional advancement

Limited English and fear of deportation make it difficult for immigrants to speak up and to refuse dangerous work. These conditions make them vulnerable to depression and infringe on opportunities for effective treatment and care.

[Janet Lubman Rathner]

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