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Depression Health Center

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Americans With Depression Are Undertreated

Study Shows Many Americans With Depression Aren't Getting Any Treatment
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Jan. 4, 2010 -- A new study shows only half of Americans with depression receive any type of treatment for it, and certain minorities may face even greater difficulties in getting the treatment they need.

Researchers found only one in five Americans suffering from clinical depression receives treatment consistent with recommended guidelines.

In addition, Mexican-Americans, Caribbean blacks, and African-Americans with depression were half as likely as others to receive any type of depression treatment or the recommended care.

"Although depression is a leading cause of disability in the United States, few Americans with recent major depression receive any form of standard care and even fewer receive care that is concordant with the American Psychiatric Association guideline," write researcher Hector M. González, PhD, of Wayne State University in Detroit, and colleagues in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

The recommended depression treatment depends upon the individual's needs and often includes a combination of psychotherapy and medication.

In the study, researchers analyzed information from a nationwide survey of 15,762 adults conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health between 2001 and 2003.

The results showed 8.3% had depression, including 8% of Mexican-Americans, 11.8% of Puerto Ricans, 7.9% of Caribbean blacks, 6.7% of African-Americans, and 8.5% of non-Latino whites.

Overall, 51% of those with depression received at least one form of depression treatment, but only 21% received at least one form of depression treatment that conformed to established treatment guidelines in the past year.

African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, and Caribbean blacks were the least likely to receive any form of depression treatment with only 12%-14% receiving any type of care.

Of those who received depression treatment, nearly 45% received psychotherapy without any medication and 34% were prescribed antidepressants.

Researchers also found Mexican-Americans and African-Americans used antidepressants less often than whites. The study showed that people who were undergoing psychotherapy were more likely to receive depression treatment in line with the recommended guidelines than those who received medications alone.

Researchers say the results reveal disparities in health care access that are often overlooked. For example, Mexican-Americans showed the greatest inequalities in mental health care in the study. Lack of health insurance partly explained their lack of adequate depression treatment but did not explain the low rate of depression treatment among African-Americans.

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