African-American Women in Rural Areas Have Lower Rates of Depression

African-American women who live in rural areas report lower rates of depression than their urban counterparts, but the opposite is true for white women, according to a new study.

The study, which examined data from a national survey, was published online yesterday in JAMA Psychiatry.

African-American women who live in urban areas reported more than double the rate of major depressive disorder and mood disorder, two common and debilitating mental illnesses.

Over their lifetimes, depression affected 4.2 percent of rural African-American women, and 1.5 percent had experienced the disorder in the last year. But in urban areas, the lifetime rate was 10.4 percent and 5.3 percent, respectively.

Mood disorder affected 6.7 percent of rural African-American women in their lifetimes, but 13.9 percent in urban areas were affected.

Meanwhile, non-Hispanic white women living in rural areas reported having major depressive disorder and mood disorder more than twice as often as their urban counterparts in the last year. Depression affected 10.3 percent of rural white women, but only 3.7 percent of those in urban areas.

Likewise, 10.3 percent of rural white women reported mood disorder in the last year, while only 3.8 percent in urban areas did.

Overall, when compared with African-American women, non-Hispanic white women were more than twice as likely to report depression in their lifetimes. Researchers found that 10.1 percent of African-American women reported depression, while 21.3 percent of white women did.

The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor researchers used data from the U.S. National Survey of American Life, a national household survey, which includes rural and suburban respondents from southern states. Participants included 1,462 African-American women and 341 non-Hispanic white women.

“These findings offer an important first step toward understanding the cumulative effect of rural residence and race/ethnicity on MDD among African-American women and non-Hispanic white women and suggest the need for further research in this area,” the study concludes.

The prevalence of depression among both African Americans and rural residents is understudied, according to the researchers.

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