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Front Psychiatry. 2016 Apr 18;7:53. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2016.00053. eCollection 2016.

Ethnic Variation in the Cross-sectional Association between Domains of Depressive Symptoms and Clinical Depression.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Center for Research on Ethnicity, Culture, and Health, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.
Medicine and Health Promotion Institute, Tehran, Iran; Mental Health Research Center, Tehran Psychiatric Institute, School of Behavioral Sciences and Mental Health, Iran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran.



The degree by which depressive symptoms and clinical depression reflect each other may vary across populations. The present study compared Blacks and Whites for the magnitude of the cross-sectional associations between various domains of depressive symptoms and endorsement of clinical disorders of depression.


Data came from the National Survey of American Life, 2001-2003. We included 3570 Black (African-Americans) and 891 Non-Hispanic Whites. Predictors were positive affect, negative affect, and interpersonal problems measured using the 12-item Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D). Outcomes were lifetime major depressive disorder (MDD), lifetime major depressive episode (MDE), 12-month MDE, 30-day MDE, and 30-day major depressive disorder with hierarchy (MDDH) based on the Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI). Logistic regression models were applied in the pooled sample as well as Blacks and Whites.


Regarding CES-D, Blacks had lower total scores, positive affect, negative affect, and interpersonal problems compared to Whites (pā€‰<ā€‰0.05 for all comparisons). Blacks also had lower odds of meeting criteria for lifetime MDD and MDE, 12-month MDE, and 30-day MDE and MDDH (pā€‰<ā€‰0.05 for all comparisons). For most depressive diagnoses, ethnicity showed a positive and significant interaction with the negative affect and interpersonal problems domains, suggesting stronger associations for Blacks compared to Whites. The CES-D total score and CES-D positive affect domain did not interact with ethnicity on CIDI-based depressive diagnoses.


Stronger associations between multiple domains of depressive symptoms and clinical depression may be due to higher severity of depression among Blacks, when they endorse the CIDI criteria for the disorder. This finding may explain some of previously observed ethnic differences in social, psychological, and medical correlates of depressive symptoms and clinical depression in the general population as well as clinical settings.


African-Americans; depression; depressive symptoms; ethnic groups; non-Hispanic Whites; validity

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