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Black News and Black Views with a Whole Lotta Attitude

New Study Confirms Black Women's Depression Often Goes Undiagnosed

Healthcare providers may miss symptoms of depression in Black women that often look different from other groups.

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The Root has reported on countless stories of racial disparity in healthcare. And now we are learning that this disparity impacts our mental health as well as our physical health.

A new study by researchers at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing and Columbia University School of Nursing found that Black women report symptoms of depression that look different from other groups. And as a result, they are often underdiagnosed and likely missing out on the treatment and support they need.

The study was published in Nursing Research on December 9. Researchers looked at data collected from 227 Black mothers screened for depression as part of an intergenerational study on factors contributing to high blood pressure.

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The Black women in the study were more likely to report things like fatigue, decreased libido, irritability and self-criticism, compared with more commonly reported symptoms of depression like low mood and changes in appetite.

Healthcare providers diagnose depression based on symptoms reported to them by their patients. But as you can probably imagine, it’s not a perfect science. There are over 1500 combinations of symptoms that can be classified as depression. Those symptoms look different from one patient to the next. Black women are also severely underrepresented in research, so it’s no wonder their depression is often overlooked.

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“Based on our findings, it’s possible that health care providers may miss depression symptoms in Black women, resulting in underdiagnosis and undertreatment,” said Nicole Perez, Ph.D., RN, a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner and a postdoctoral associate at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing.

Perez says she hopes this study will motivate researchers to take a closer look at how depression shows up in Black women and help close the health care gap.

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“My hope is that these findings contribute to the growing dialogue of how depression can look different from person to person and raise awareness of the need for more research in historically understudied and minoritized populations, so that we can better identify symptoms and reduce missed care and health disparities,” she said.