Race Differences in Depression Vulnerability Following Hurricane Katrina

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Abstract

Objective: This study investigated whether racial disparities in depression were present after Hurricane Katrina. Method: Data were gathered from 932 New Orleans residents who were present when Hurricane Katrina struck, and who returned to New Orleans the following year. Multiple logistic regression models evaluated racial differences in screening positive for depression (a score ≥16 on the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale), and explored whether differential vulnerability (prehurricane physical and mental health functioning and education level), differential exposure to hurricane-related stressors, and loss of social support moderated and/or reduced the association of race with depression. Results: A univariate logistic regression analysis showed the odds for screening positive for depression were 86% higher for African Americans than for Caucasians (odds ratio [OR] = 1.86 [1.28–2.71], p = .0012). However, after controlling simultaneously for sociodemographic characteristics, preexisting vulnerabilities, social support, and trauma-specific factors, race was no longer a significant correlate for screening positive for depression (OR = 1.54 [0.95–2.48], p = .0771). Conclusions: The racial disparity in postdisaster depression seems to be confounded by sociodemographic characteristics, preexisting vulnerabilities, social support, and trauma-specific factors. Nonetheless, even after adjusting for these factors, there was a nonsignificant trend effect for race, which could suggest race played an important role in depression outcomes following Hurricane Katrina. Future studies should examine these associations prospectively, using stronger assessments for depression, and incorporate measures for discrimination and segregation, to further understand possible racial disparities in depression after Hurricane Katrina.

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