Somatic symptoms in treatment-naïve Hispanic and non-Hispanic patients with major depression

Boadie W. Dunlop, Sarah Still, Devon LoParo, Vivianne Aponte-Rivera, Benjamin N. Johnson, Rebecca L. Schneider, Charles B. Nemeroff, Helen S. Mayberg, W. Edward Craighead

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: Somatic complaints are a major driver of health care costs among patients with major depressive disorder (MDD). Some epidemiologic and clinical data suggest that Hispanic and non-Hispanic Black patients with MDD endorse higher levels of somatic symptoms than non-Hispanic White patients. Methods: Somatic symptoms in 102 Hispanic, 61 non-Hispanic Black, and 156 non-Hispanic White patients with treatment-naïve MDD were evaluated using the somatic symptom subscale of the Hamilton anxiety rating scale (HAM-A). The other seven items of the HAM-A comprise the psychic anxiety subscale, which was also evaluated across ethnicities. Results: Hispanic patients reported significantly greater levels of somatic symptoms than non-Hispanic patients, but levels of psychic anxiety symptoms did not differ by ethnicity. Levels of somatic symptoms did not significantly differ between Black and White non-Hispanic patients. Within the Hispanic sample, somatic symptom levels were higher only among those who were evaluated in Spanish; Hispanics who spoke English showed no significant differences versus non-Hispanics. Conclusions: In this medically healthy sample of patients with MDD, monolingual Spanish-speaking Hispanic patients endorsed high levels of somatic symptoms. Clinicians should be mindful that the depressive experience may manifest somatically and be judicious in determining when additional medical work-up is warranted for somatic complaints.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalDepression and anxiety
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019


  • acculturation
  • African Americans
  • anxiety
  • ethnicity
  • Latino
  • Spanish

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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    Dunlop, B. W., Still, S., LoParo, D., Aponte-Rivera, V., Johnson, B. N., Schneider, R. L., Nemeroff, C. B., Mayberg, H. S., & Craighead, W. E. (Accepted/In press). Somatic symptoms in treatment-naïve Hispanic and non-Hispanic patients with major depression. Depression and anxiety.