Send to

Choose Destination
Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2008 Dec;16(12):948-56. doi: 10.1097/JGP.0b013e318187ddd3.

Mental health service use among older African Americans: the National Survey of American Life.

Author information

Institute for Social Research, Center for Research on Ethnicity, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.



The objective of this study was to examine mental health services utilization of older African Americans using data from the National Survey of American Life.


A subsample of African American respondents aged 55 years or older (N = 837) was used for this study. Thirteen mental disorders, including mood, anxiety, and substance disorders, were assessed using the Diagnostic Statistical Manual-IV World Mental Health Composite International Diagnostic Interview. Seventy-four respondents (9.6%) met criteria for a disorder. Self-reported service use included psychiatric and nonpsychiatric mental health services, general medical care, and nonhealth care (e.g., human services and complementary-alternative medicine).


Overall, 46.5% (N = 30) of older African Americans with any one 12-month disorder used some form of services in the last year; 47.2% (N = 12) with two or more disorders used any services. Those reporting any mood disorder had higher service use in every sector compared with those with any anxiety or any substance disorder. Age was significantly related with each service sector except for nonhealth care. There were no significant gender or work status differences, and marital status was only significant in nonhealth care use. Those aged 55-64, married, and not residing in the south were more likely to report any service use than their respective counterparts.


These findings reveal that a significant proportion of African American older adults with mental health disorders do not receive professional help. Future research on system, provider, and patient factors is needed to clarify and explain underutilization of mental health services.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center