Studies Examine Depression, Preterm Births Among Blacks
The following summarizes recent news coverage of studies looking at depression and preterm births among blacks.
- Depression: Blacks have lower rates of depression than whites, but among those with the condition, it is more likely to be severe and last longer, according to a study published Tuesday in the Archives of General Psychiatry, United Press International reports (Pierce, UPI, 3/6). For the study, lead researcher David Williams of the Harvard School of Public Health and colleagues examined depression among 3,570 individuals who identified themselves as African-Americans without ancestral connections to the Caribbean; 1,621 blacks who had ancestral ties to the Caribbean; and 891 whites who participated in a national survey conducted from 2001 to 2003. Participants were asked about their sociodemographic background, symptoms of depression, severity of symptoms and how the condition affected their daily lives. African-Americans had the lowest reported lifetime rates of depression at 10.4%, followed by Caribbean blacks at 12.9% and whites at 17.9%. However, 56.5% of African-Americans and 56% of Caribbean blacks reporting depression during their lifetimes also reported having the condition within the last 12 months, compared with 38.6% of whites (Newswise, 3/1). In addition, 75% of African-Americans and Caribbean blacks reported being severely depressed or severely impaired by the condition, compared with 65% of whites (UPI, 3/6). Of those who met the criteria for depression, 45% of African-Americans and 24.3% of Caribbean blacks received treatment. The authors wrote, "Future research should explore the extent to which social support systems, including religious participation and psychological resources, such as high levels of self-esteem, can provide some protection to the black population from exposure to adverse social conditions. The findings of this study highlight the importance of identifying high-risk subgroups in racial populations and the continuing need to target cost-effective interventions to them" (Newswise, 3/1). An abstract of the study is available online.
- Preterm births: According to preliminary findings reported in the February issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, black women who practice vaginal douching six months before pregnancy but not during pregnancy might reduce their risks of delivering preterm, Reuters Health reports. For the report, Dawn Misra of the University of Michigan School of Public Health and Britton Trabert of the University of Washington School of Public Health examined 832 Baltimore City, Md., black women who received prenatal care at one of four prenatal clinics affiliated with Johns Hopkins University or gave birth at the affiliated hospital after late, intermittent or no prenatal care. Of the study population, 533 women, or 64.1%, said they had ever douched; a significant number of women reported douching six months before pregnancy; and only a small number reported douching during pregnancy. Overall, 16.4% of the women delivered preterm. Those who reported douching fewer than three times monthly in the six months before pregnancy had a 37% reduced risk of preterm delivery, compared with women who had never douched. Women who douched during pregnancy had an increased risk of preterm delivery. Researchers said the findings indicate that symptoms or a diagnosis of a vaginal infection were the likely reasons the women douched. "However, because of constraints of our study design and the lack of primary data on infection, causality cannot be determined or excluded" (Reuters Health, 3/5). The study is available online.