Psychological Distress and Depression

Higher levels of depressive symptoms among older Hispanics, especially women, have been a finding of numerous studies since the 1980s (Villa et al., 1993).

Rural Areas: In the San Luis Valley Health and Aging Study, the prevalence of a high number of depressive symptoms was greater in Hispanic women than in NHW women (age-adjusted odds ratio 2.11; 95% CI 1.32–3.38), but there were no ethnic differences in men (Swenson, Baxter, Shetterly, 2000). Chronic disease, dissatisfaction with social support, living alone, and lower income and education were associated with depressive symptoms. After adjustments for multiple sociodemographic and health risk factors, the odds ratio comparing Hispanic to non-Hispanic white women was unchanged. Depressive symptoms in Hispanic women varied by level of acculturation, for example low acculturation was associated with more depression.

A study that examined Hispanic subgroup differences among Mexican American, Puerto Ricans and Cuban elders relative to psychological distress also found that language acculturation had a beneficial effect on the positive well being of the elders. The more acculturated elders experienced less social isolation and had fewer financial problems (Krause & Goldenhar, 1991).

Massachusetts: The Massachusetts Elderly Study (MAHES), a representative sample of community-based Hispanic elderly (predominately Puerto Rican and Dominican elders) and a non-Hispanic white (NHW) comparison group, reported a higher prevalence of depression among Puerto Rican elders compared to the Dominican and NHW elders (Falcon, 2000). About 44% of the Puerto Ricans had CES-D scores > 16 compared to 32% of Dominicans, 30% of other Hispanics, and 22% of NHWs.

California: A study of 1789 Latinos aged 60 and over living in Sacramento, California, and surrounding rural areas found the prevalence of depression was 25.4%; 32.0% of women and 16.3% of men had CES-D scores above 16. It was higher among immigrants, bicultural, and less acculturated participants, compared to U.S.-born and those more acculturated. After adjusting for education, income, psychosocial and health factors, the least acculturated group were still at significantly higher risk of depression (OR=1.56, 95%CI=1.06–2.31) (Gonzales, Haan, & Hinton, 2001).