Racial/ethnic differences in 12-month prevalence and persistence of mood, anxiety, and substance use disorders: Variation by nativity and socioeconomic status

Compr Psychiatry. 2019 Feb;89:52-60. doi: 10.1016/j.comppsych.2018.12.008. Epub 2018 Dec 19.


Background: Despite equivalent or lower lifetime and past-year prevalence of mental disorder among racial/ethnic minorities compared to non-Latino Whites in the United States, evidence suggests that mental disorders are more persistent among minorities than non-Latino Whites. But, it is unclear how nativity and socioeconomic status contribute to observed racial/ethnic differences in prevalence and persistence of mood, anxiety, and substance disorders.

Method: Data were examined from a coordinated series of four national surveys that together assessed 21,024 Asian, non-Latino Black, Latino, and non-Latino White adults between 2001 and 2003. Common DSM-IV mood, anxiety, and substance disorders were assessed using the Composite International Diagnostic Interview. Logistic regression analyses examined how several predictors (e.g., race/ethnicity, nativity, education, income) and the interactions between those predictors were associated with both 12-month disorder prevalence and 12-month prevalence among lifetime cases. For the second series of analyses, age of onset and time since onset were used as additional control variables to indirectly estimate disorder persistence.

Results: Non-Latino Whites demonstrated the highest unadjusted 12-month prevalence of all disorder types (p < 0.001), though differences were also observed across minority groups. In contrast, Asian, Latino, and Black adults demonstrated higher 12-month prevalence of mood disorders among lifetime cases than Whites (p < 0.001) prior to adjustments Once we introduced nativity and other relevant controls (e.g., age, sex, urbanicity), US-born Whites with at least one US-born parent demonstrated higher 12-month mood disorder prevalence than foreign-born Whites or US-born Whites with two foreign parents (OR = 0.51, 95% CI = [0.36, 0.73]); this group also demonstrated higher odds of past-year mood disorder than Asian (OR = 0.59, 95% CI = [0.42, 0.82]) and Black (OR = 0.70, 95% CI = [0.58, 0.83]) adults, but not Latino adults (OR = 0.89, 95% CI = [0.74, 1.06]). Racial/ethnic differences in 12-month mood and substance disorder prevalence were moderated by educational attainment, especially among adults without a college education. Additionally, racial/ethnic minority groups with no more than a high school education demonstrated more persistent mood and substance disorders than non-Latino Whites; these relationships reversed or disappeared at higher education levels.

Conclusion: Nativity may be a particularly relevant consideration for diagnosing mood disorder among non-Latino Whites; additionally, lower education appears to be associated with increased relative risk of persistent mood and substance use disorders among racial/ethnic minorities compared to non-Latino Whites.

Keywords: Disorder persistence; Disorder prevalence; Ethnicity; Mental health; Race; Socioeconomic status.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Anxiety Disorders / ethnology
  • Ethnicity / psychology*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mood Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Mood Disorders / ethnology
  • Prevalence
  • Racial Groups / ethnology
  • Racial Groups / psychology*
  • Social Class
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / ethnology
  • United States / epidemiology