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Depression A Problem Among Older Caribbean Immigrants

News Americas, LANSIGNG, Michigan, Fri. Aug. 2, 2013: Caribbean nationals may know how to party but major depression is a serious public health problem among older Caribbean adults according to a new study.

New research by a Michigan State University scholar of nearly 2,000 people aged 50 and older, found that whites and blacks of Caribbean descent experience much higher rates of major depression than African-Americans.

Amanda Toler Woodward, lead investigator on the study and MSU associate professor of social work, said the findings, taken as a whole, suggest major depression among older Caribbean people is worse than many believe and has serious implications as the massive baby boomer generation ages.

The study examined rates of major depression among three ethnic groups – whites, African-Americans and black Caribbeans – making it the first comprehensive examination of major depression among older blacks.

Specifically, the researchers found:

About 23 percent of older black Caribbean immigrants experienced major depression during their lifetime, and 15 percent experienced major depressive symptoms in the previous 12 months.

Older black men of Caribbean descent reported much higher rates of major depression than older black women of Caribbean descent. This runs counter to the other ethnic groups – whites and African-Americans – which saw women report higher rates of major depression.

While the study did not measure why black Caribbean nationals had significantly higher rates of major depression than African-Americans, Woodward said it may have to do with negative experiences related to immigration such as being separated from family and friends and adapting to U.S. culture.

“This data shows that black Caribbeans and African-Americans are not as similar as one may think, and when we’re thinking about diagnoses and treatment we shouldn’t lump them together,” Woodward said.