Objectives: We investigated racial/ethnic disparities in the diagnosis and treatment of depression among community-dwelling elderly.
Methods: We performed a secondary analysis of Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey data (n = 33,708) for 2001 through 2005. We estimated logistic regression models to assess the association of race/ethnicity with the probability of being diagnosed and treated for depression with either antidepressant medication or psychotherapy.
Results: Depression diagnosis rates were 6.4% for non-Hispanic Whites, 4.2% for African Americans, 7.2% for Hispanics, and 3.8% for others. After we adjusted for a range of covariates including a 2-item depression screener, we found that African Americans were significantly less likely to receive a depression diagnosis from a health care provider (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 0.53; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.41, 0.69) than were non-Hispanic Whites; those diagnosed were less likely to be treated for depression (AOR = 0.45; 95% CI = 0.30, 0.66).
Conclusions: Among elderly Medicare beneficiaries, significant racial/ethnic differences exist in the diagnosis and treatment of depression. Vigorous clinical and public health initiatives are needed to address this persisting disparity in care.