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J Natl Med Assoc. 1997 Nov;89(11):731-6.

A review of racial differences in geriatric depression: implications for care and clinical research.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina 27710, USA.


How racial differences influence depressed elders' seeking and obtaining treatment for depression is poorly understood. Studies in other medical illnesses show older African Americans use fewer health-care services for heart disease, stroke, and renal dialysis. This article reviews the racial composition of Duke University's Clinical Research Center (CRC) for the Study of Depression in the Elderly. Possible explanations for low participation of African Americans in such programs also are discussed. During most of the first year of the CRC project, minority enrollment varied from 5% to 10%, at least one third the African-American population of the area. Active efforts to improve minority recruitment increased this percentage to 15% by the end of the project's second year. Likely explanations for low minority participation rates include 1) elders may recognize depressive symptoms, but do not seek or cannot obtain medical treatment, and 2) depressive symptoms may be attributed to a crisis of the spirit (so help is sought through prayer and the church), the "slowing down" process of aging, or part of life's burden to be endured. Future attempts at both treatment and clinical research recruitment efforts are needed to address these possibilities.

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