The association between discrimination and depressive symptoms among older African Americans: the role of psychological and social factors

Exp Aging Res. 2015;41(1):1-24. doi: 10.1080/0361073X.2015.978201.


BACKGROUND/STUDY CONTEXT: Several studies have demonstrated a link between perceived discrimination and depression in ethnic minority groups, yet most have focused on younger or middle-aged African Americans and little is known about factors that may moderate the relationship.

Methods: Participants were 487 older African Americans (60-98 years old) enrolled in the Minority Aging Research Study. Discrimination, depressive symptoms, and psychological and social resources were assessed via interview using validated measures. Ordinal logistic regression models were used to assess (1) the main relationship between discrimination and depression and (2) resilience, purpose in life, social isolation, and social networks as potential moderators of this relationship.

Results: In models adjusted for age, sex, education, and income, perceived discrimination was positively associated with depressive symptoms (odds ratio [OR]: 1.20, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.10-1.31; p < .001). However, there was no evidence of effect modification by resilience, purpose in life, social isolation, or social networks (all ps ≤ .05).

Conclusion: Findings provide support for accumulating evidence on the adverse mental health effects of discrimination among older African Americans. Because the association was not modified by psychological or social factors, these findings do not support a role for a buffering effect of resources on discrimination and depressive symptoms. Further studies are needed to examine a wider range of coping resources among older adults.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Black or African American / psychology*
  • Cities / epidemiology
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / ethnology
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Minority Groups / psychology*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Racism / psychology*
  • Social Isolation
  • Social Support
  • United States / epidemiology