Antidepressant Use in Black and White Populations in the United States

A study to estimate the prevalence of antidepressant use by Black and White Americans found that Black patients are significantly less likely to use antidepressants than White patients.

The authors used data from the Collaborative Psychiatric Epidemiology Surveys along with in-person interviews to calculate estimates and correlates for past-year antidepressant use by Black and White American adults.

Among individuals with depressive and anxiety disorders, Black respondents had significantly lower antidepressant use than White respondents–14.6 percent versus 32.4 percent. More severe depression was associated with higher antidepressant use for White respondents, but not for Black respondents. Psychiatric disorders and vascular disease both increased the odds of past-year antidepressant use, and about half of all past-year antidepressant use was by both Black and White respondents who did not meet criteria for mental disorders. Antidepressants are also often used for maintenance pharmacotherapy for past depressive and anxiety disorders.

Black Americans were one-third less likely to use antidepressants than White Americans. The authors recommend additional research to determine whether the differences in antidepressant use found in this study result from unmet need, differences in attitude or treatment preference between Black and White patients. The authors also recommend increased outreach to underserved patients and improving mental health care at common points of service delivery.