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Open Nurs J. 2011;5:60-4. doi: 10.2174/1874434601105010060. Epub 2011 Sep 30.

Discord of biological and psychological measures in a group of depressed african american and white cancer patients.

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Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, Case Western Reserve University, 10900 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44106-4904, USA.



This study examined racial differences in the self-report of depressive symptoms by reference to biological states.


The study used a convenience sample of 20 depressed cancer patients (CES-D ≥16) (15 African Americans and 5 Whites). Subjects completed depression assessment on a battery of psychological measures and provided blood and saliva samples. Laboratory tests were performed on biomarkers (serotonin, cortisol and IL-6). T-test was computed to examine racial differences on biological and psychological measures.


Depressed Whites had a significantly higher cortisol level than depressed African Americans, but no significant group difference was found on any self-reported psychological measures of depression. There was a trend that African Americans reported fewer depressive symptoms on psychological measures but exceeded Whites on the domain of somatization; however, such group differences did not approach statistic significance in this small sample.


African Americans did not appear to underreport depression in consideration of their biological states, but had a tendency to report more somatic symptoms than Whites; this may be attributable to non-depression diseases or reporting behavior rather than somatic sensitivity. African Americans exhibited more mistrust in the health care system, which could affect the self-report of depression. There is a discord between biological and psychological measures of depression. Biomarkers prove to be useful for evaluating racial difference in the self-report of depression. IMPLICATION FOR NURSING: Nurses should be cautious of somatic complaints when assessing African American cancer patient's depression. Establishing trust is essential for an accurate assessment of depression in African American cancer patients.


African American; biomarker; cancer; cortisol; depression; race.

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