Psychological Medicine

Symptoms of depression among community-dwelling elderly African-American and White older adults

D. G. BLAZER a1c1, L. R. LANDERMAN a1, J. C. HAYS a1, E. M. SIMONSICK a1 and W. B. SAUNDERS a1
a1 Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University Medical Center, Durham; and the Epidemiology, Demography and Biometry Program, National Institute on Aging, Worldwide Epidemiology, Glaxo Wellcome, Inc., Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, USA


Background. Few studies have explored the variance in individual symptoms by race in older adults.

Methods. Data were analysed from the Duke site of the Established Populations for Epidemiologic Studies of the Elderly (EPESE), a community sample of persons 65 years-of-age and older, 54% of whom were African-Americans. Of the 3401 subjects with adequate data on depressive symptomatology, confirmatory factor analysis and LISREL were first used to confirm the presence of the factor structure previously reported for the CES-D. Next, bivariate analysis was performed to determine the prevalence of individual symptoms by race. Finally, LISREL analysis was performed to control for potential confounding variables.

Results. When bivariate comparisons of specific symptoms by race were explored, African-Americans were more likely to report less hope about the future, poor appetite, difficulty concentrating, requiring more effort for usual activities, less talking, feeling people were unfriendly, feeling disliked by others and being more ‘bothered’ than usual. When LISREL analyses were applied to these data (controlling for education, income, cognitive impairment, chronic health problems and disability and other factors) racial differences in somatic complaints and life satisfaction disappeared, yet differences in interpersonal relations persisted.

Conclusions. This study confirms earlier findings of minimal overall differences in symptom frequency between African-American and non-African-American community-dwelling older adults in controlled studies.

c1 Address for correspondence: Professor Dan G. Blazer, Box 3005, DUMC, Durham, NC 27710, USA.