Antidepressants have greatly aided many of us suffering from depression and a wide variety of other mental illnesses. These medications have helped countless numbers of people cope with what we had previously deemed unmanageable lives. Yet, there is a discrepancy in the medical community regarding the numerical discrepancy in different races being prescribed antidepressants. In a new study conducted at the University of Michigan and Indiana University, researchers found that physicians were 1.52 times more likely to prescribe antidepressants to Caucasians than Hispanics, who are of various racial backgrounds. (HuffingtonPost)
In the study researches attempted to discern the factors that constitute the reasons why certain ethnic groups are more likely to be prescribed antidepressants. In a perfect world, physicians would solely take into account the individual’s needs, regardless of race or ethnicity, when considering the possibility of prescribing antidepressants. However, studies have found that this is not the sole measure of the probability of an individual being prescribed an antidepressant.
Researchers have concluded that “previous studies have shown that racial/ethnic health disparities may come from discrimination, differential insurance benefits, lower rates of participation in healthcare decision making, and differential attitudes toward use of antidepressant pharmacotherapy.” (HuffingtonPost) The reasons that people of different racial backgrounds are prescribed antidepressants at different rates therefore arise from a variety of reasons, one in particular being certain races’ attitudes towards pharmacology. For example, according to a 30-year examination of antidepressants and race conducted by Loretta Jones, “African-Americans have different prevalent attitudes towards antidepressants when compared to their Caucasian counterparts.”
Jones says that African-Americans’ attitudes towards antidepressants is a three-pronged initiative. She explains, “First, African-Americans are less likely to take antidepressants, because they’re less likely to ask for them. Second, many physicians don’t want to talk about antidepressants to African American patients, as many are seen in centers and clinics where they are rushed through their visits. Three, African Americans don’t want to be considered “crazy”, so they’re less likely to take the medicine.” (HuffingtonPost) The stigma associated with taking antidepressants is not as prevalent in the Caucasian community, as indicated by the study’s findings that whites are 1.52 times more likely to prescribed antidepressants as are Hispanics.
Possible reasons that Caucasians may be more likely to take antidepressants include affluence, access to healthcare, and a more lax attitude towards the stigma of antidepressants. Many antidepressants are incredibly expensive and, without insurance companies kicking in to spread the cost of payment for medication, individuals from certain racial and ethnic groups may be less able to afford such medications, despite the individual’s dire need for them. Compounding the problem of economic needs is the fact some physicians may just feel more at ease prescribing antidepressants to certain races based on the numerical facts that certain races are more likely to heed their doctor’s advice.
The study suggests that until the National Institute of Mental Health puts down a policy that requires mental health professionals to treat patients of all races the same, the discrepancy in antidepressant prescription by race will continue. In my personal opinion, the issue of medication for mental health is so important that anything decisions related to helping those of us who suffer from mental illness must be done in an egalitarian and fair manner.
Removing the stigma of race when prescribing medication will help those in need of medication get the attention they require and deserve for equal access to medication. Hopefully in the future everyone, regardless of race or ethnicity, will be able to get the medication they so desperately need without race playing in a factor in doctors’ decisions to offer antidepressant medications.
HuffingtonPost. White People More Likely To be Prescribed Antidepressants . n.d. <http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/04/19/white-people-antidepressants_n_1437008.html>.