News & Commentary

Age, coverage erase racial, ethnic differences in men's use of depression, anxiety treatment

Black and Hispanic men suffering from depression or anxiety are less likely to get help than white men, but the racial and ethnic differences narrow and even reverse with age and insurance coverage, according to a CDC report on men’s use of mental health treatment.

When researchers at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics analyzed survey data on more than 21,000 American men, they found that nearly 1 in 10 adult American men had daily bouts of depression or anxiety, but less than half (41%) of those men received treatment for their problems by either taking medication (33%) or talking with a mental health professional (25.7%).

Racial and ethnic disparity changes with age, insurance

Percentage of men reporting symptoms of depression or anxiety who received treatment

Source: CDC/NCHS, National Health Interview Survey, 2010–2013

The CDC researchers found that 26.4% of young (ages 18 to 44) black and Hispanic men with anxiety and depression sought treatment, compared with 45.4% of white men. But with age, the picture changes; in fact, among older men (ages 45 and older), a slightly greater percentage (46.4%) of black and Hispanic men seek treatment compared with white men (41.3%).

When they looked at associations with insurance coverage, the CDC statisticians found large racial and ethnic differences among the young and uninsured: White men (39.3%) were three times more likely to seek treatment as black and Hispanic men (12.7%). But among the young with insurance, the difference narrowed (48.4% vs. 38.7%) and was not statistically significant.

The researchers noted that in focus groups, young men of color were much more likely to say that seeking treatment for mental illness is a sign of weakness but, again, “Having health insurance appeared to reduce the impact of such barriers… Recent expansions of health insurance coverage may consequently reduce these racial and ethnic disparities.”

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