Late-life depression in older African Americans: a comprehensive review of epidemiological and clinical data

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The population of older African Americans is expected to triple by 2050, highlighting the public health importance of understanding their mental health needs. Despite evidence of the negative impact of late-life depression, less is known of how this disorder affects the lives of older African Americans. Lack of studies focusing on how depression presents in older African Americans and their subsequent treatment needs lead to a gap in epidemiologic and clinical knowledge for this population. In this review, we aim to present a concise report of prevalence, correlates, course, outcomes, symptom recognition, and treatment of depression for these individuals.


We performed a literature review of English-language articles identified from PubMed and Medline published between January 1990 and June 2012. Studies included older adults and contained the key words ‘geriatric depression in African Americans’, ‘geriatric depression in Blacks’, and ‘geriatric depression in minorities’.


Although in most studies, older African Americans had higher or equivalence prevalence of depression compared with Caucasian Americans, we also found lower rates of recognition of depression and treatment. Many studies reported worse outcomes associated for depression among older African Americans compared with older Caucasians.


Serious racial and ethnic disparities persist in the management of older African Americans with depression. Understanding their unmet needs and improving depression care for these individuals is necessary to reduce these disparities. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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