The epidemiology of major depression and ethnicity in the United States

J Psychiatr Res. 2010 Nov;44(15):1043-51. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2010.03.017. Epub 2010 May 27.


Objectives: To determine the prevalence, age of onset, severity, associated disability, and treatment of major depression among United States ethnic groups, national survey data were analyzed.

Methods: National probability samples of US household residents aged 18-years and older (n=14,710) participated. The main outcomes were past-year and lifetime major depression (World Mental Health Composite International Diagnostic Interview). Major depression prevalence estimates, age of onset, severity, associated disability, and disaggregated treatment use (pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy) and treatment guideline concordant use were examined by ethnicity.

Results: The prevalence of major depression was higher among US-born ethnic groups compared to foreign-born groups, but not among older adults. African Americans and Mexicans had significantly higher depression chronicity and significantly lower depression care use and guideline concordant use than Whites.

Discussion: We provide concise and detailed guidance for better understanding the distribution of major depression and related mental healthcare inequalities and related morbidity. Inequalities in depression care primarily affecting Mexican Americans and African Americans may relate to excesses in major depression disease burden.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Age of Onset
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / epidemiology*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / ethnology*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / therapy
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Mental Disorders / ethnology
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Statistical
  • Prevalence
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • United States / ethnology
  • Young Adult