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 journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


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)
Pages (from-to)156-165
Number of pages10
JournalDepression and anxiety
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020


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

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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