Study Finds Racial Disparities in Mental Health Diagnoses and Treatment

A new academic study finds that African Americans are significantly more likely than non-Hispanic White Americans to diagnosed with schizophrenia. But African Americans are less likely than Whites to receive medication to treat the condition.

mhrnResearchers examined records of the Mental Health Research Network, which is composed of 11 private, not-for-profit health care organizations. The network had a combined 7,523,956 patients age 18 or older who received care during 2011. More than 15 percent of these patients were diagnosed with mental health problems.

The results showed wide racial disparities in mental health diagnoses with Native Americans diagnosed at the highest rate and Asian Americans with the lowest. African Americans were diagnosed with schizophrenia at nearly twice the rate of Whites. But nearly 78 percent of Whites determined to be suffering from schizophrenia were given medication, the highest rate of any racial or ethnic group.

Ashli A. Owen-Smith, an assistant professor of health management and policy in the School of Public Health at Georgia State University and a co-author of the study, added that “prevalence rates for depression and anxiety were lower among racial and ethnic minority group and non-Hispanic Whites were consistently higher in use of pharmacotherapy compared to other race/ethnicities.”

The study, “Racial-Ethnic Differences in Psychiatric Diagnoses and Treatment Across 11 Health Care Systems in the Mental Health Research Network,” was published in the journal Psychiatric Services. It may be accessed here.


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