Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) and Race: A Report of ECT Use and Sociodemographic Trends in Texas

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Minimal research on race and other sociodemographic disparities in patients receiving electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) exists. One previously noted national trend reveals whites receiving ECT disproportionately more than other races. The aim of this study is to determine whether a county ECT program demonstrates similar disparities observed at the state and national levels.


This study examined 21 years of ECT data, between 1993 and 2014, provided by the Texas Department of State Health Services, focusing on race, sex, age, and payer source and 2.5 years of the same variables from a Harris County hospital ECT program. In addition, population demographic data for Harris County and the state of Texas during the same period were obtained from the Department of State Health Services Web site.


Despite an overall decrease in the population of whites countywide and statewide, whites continue to use more ECT than African Americans, Latinos, and Asians in both Harris County and Texas. However, the rates of ECT use in minorities increased overall. Both countywide and statewide, ECT was used more than twice as often in women than men. Statewide, elderly patients (>65 years old) saw decreases in ECT use, and there was an increase in private third-party payer source.


Electroconvulsive therapy remains underused among African Americans, Latinos, and Asians. Hypotheses and areas for future study include cultural beliefs, stigma, patient and provider knowledge of ECT, and access to care. Despite this, the general use of ECT in Texas has increased overall, and minority use is slowly on the rise.

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