Prevalence of psychiatric illnesses in older ethnic minority adults

Daniel E. Jimenez, Margarita Alegría, Chih Nan Chen, Domin Chan, Mara Laderman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


Objectives: To compare lifetime and 12-month prevalence of psychiatric disorders in a nationally representative sample of older Latino, Asian, African-American, and Afro-Caribbean adults with that of older non-Latino white adults. Design: Cross-sectional study conducted in 2001 through 2004. Setting: Urban and rural households in the contiguous United States. Participants: Two thousand three hundred seventy-five community-dwelling residents aged 60 and older living in noninstitutional settings. Data are from the National Institutes of Mental Health Collaborative Psychiatric Epidemiological Studies. METHODS: The World Mental Health Composite International Diagnostic Interview assessed lifetime and 12-month psychiatric disorders. Bayesian estimates compared psychiatric disorder prevalence rates of ethnic and racial groups. Results: Older non-Latino whites exhibited a greater prevalence on several lifetime diagnoses than older Asian, African-American, and Afro-Caribbean respondents. Older Latinos did not differ from older non-Latino whites on any lifetime diagnosis and had higher 12-month rates of any depressive disorder. No differences were observed in the 12-month diagnoses between older non-Latino whites and the other racial and ethnic minority groups. Older immigrant Latinos had higher lifetime rates of dysthymia and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) than U.S.-born Latinos. Older immigrant Asians had higher lifetime rates of GAD than U.S.-born Asians. Older immigrant Latinos had higher 12-month rates of dysthymia than older U.S.-born Latinos. Conclusion: Caution should be taken when generalizing the protective effects of ethnicity into old age. Older Asians and African-Americans exhibited lower prevalence rates of some psychiatric disorders, whereas older Latinos exhibited rates equal to those of older non-Latino whites. Also, the protective effect of nativity seems to vary according to age, psychiatric disorder, and ethnicity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)256-264
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Ethnicity
  • Older adults
  • Prevalence
  • Psychiatric illness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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