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Am J Psychiatry. 2000 Jul;157(7):1089-94.

Marked differences in antidepressant use by race in an elderly community sample: 1986-1996.

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



Prescriptions of antidepressant medications have increased significantly over the past 15 years across the life cycle. One overall correlate of medication use in older adults is race, with African Americans using fewer medications than whites. Given the frequency of depressive symptoms among elderly populations, as well as the increased potential for adverse side effects from antidepressants, the relative contribution of race in the use of antidepressants is critical for determining well-designed studies. The authors analyzed data from a community-based cohort of elders followed for 10 years to determine the association of race to the use of antidepressants between 1986 and 1996, with control for known correlates of depression in late life.


Information on antidepressant use and demographic and health characteristics were obtained from a stratified, probability-based sample of 4,162 elders (equally distributed between African American and white community-dwelling subjects) in the Piedmont region of North Carolina during four in-person interviews spanning 10 years. Descriptive statistics were calculated. Logistic regression was used for the final models.


A total of 4.6% of whites and 2.3% of African Americans used antidepressants in 1986. Approximately 14.3% of whites and 5.0% of African Americans used antidepressants in 1996. In controlled analyses, the prevalence odds ratio for antidepressant use in whites, compared to African Americans, was 1. 76 in 1986 and 3.77 in 1996.


African American elders are much less likely to take antidepressants, and the difference in use increased over the 10 years of the survey.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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