Significant racial and ethnic disparities exist among American men reporting mental health symptoms and utilizing treatment, according to a data brief from the National Center for Health Statistics.
“Compared with white Americans, persons of other races in the United States are less likely to have access to and receive needed mental health care. Few studies, however, have explored such disparities specifically among men. Mental health and treatment have traditionally received less attention for men than women, perhaps because men are less likely than women to report mental health problems and to receive services for these problems,” study researcher Stephen J. Blumberg, PhD, of the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, and colleagues wrote.
Stephen J. Blumberg
To examine racial and ethnic disparities among mental health symptoms and related treatment utilization, Blumberg and colleagues analyzed data for 21,058 men aged 18 years and older from 2010 to 2013.
Overall, 8.5% of men reported feeling anxious or depressed daily. This rate differed by race and ethnicity: 7.3% of non-Hispanic black and Hispanic men reported daily feelings of anxiety or depression vs. 9% of non-Hispanic white men.
Racial and ethnic disparities in feelings of depression or anxiety were only observed among men aged 18 to 44 years, according to researchers.
Men aged 45 years and older were significantly more likely to have daily feelings of anxiety or depression compared with men aged 18 to 44 years (9.4% vs. 7.6%). This difference was largely due to significant racial disparities among the younger group.
Among men aged 18 to 44 years, non-Hispanic black and Hispanic men were almost 30% less likely to have daily feelings of anxiety or depression than non-Hispanic white men.
Thirty-three percent of men with daily feelings of anxiety or depression took medication for them and 25.7% talked to a mental health professional within the last year.
Non-Hispanic white men were more likely to have taken medication or visited a mental health professional than non-Hispanic black and Hispanic men (43% vs. 36%).
These differences in utilization of mental health services were observed only among men aged 18 to 44 years.
Among uninsured men aged 18 to 44 years with daily feelings of depression or anxiety, 39.3% of non-Hispanic white men used mental health treatments compared with 12.7% of non-Hispanic black and Hispanic men.
Differences among men aged 18 to 44 years with daily feelings of anxiety or depression who had health insurance did not reach statistical significance.
“Racial and ethnic differences in men’s mental health treatment use appear to be driven by differences among younger uninsured men,” Blumberg and colleagues wrote. “In focus groups, young men or color were particularly likely to say that mental illness and treatment seeking are signs of weakness and can bring shame and embarrassment to one’s self and family. Yet having health insurance coverage appeared to reduce the impact of such barriers; the observed racial and ethnic difference in treatment use was significantly smaller for younger insured men. Recent expansions of health insurance coverage may consequently reduce these racial and ethnic disparities.” – by Amanda Oldt
Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.
Blumberg SJ, et al. Racial and ethnic disparities in men’s use of mental health treatments. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db206.htm. Accessed June 9, 2015.