A new study by Northeastern University professor Debra L. Franko found that white girls become less depressed as they age while black girls continue feeling the same.
Franko and her associates surveyed more than two thousand girls and young women of both ethnicities and concluded that the depression rate in Caucasian females drops over time, while it remains steady in their African-American counterparts. The study was published in a recent issue of Journal of Adolescent Health.
Dr. Franko and her fellow researchers studied girls between the ages of 16 and 23 by examining self-reported symptoms of depression and analyzed the differences between the two ethnic groups. They suspect that these differences occur because of known racial and ethnic health disparities.
“We believe that issues like access to proper care, the stigma of mental health problems, and insurance status may be contributing factors to African-American girls suffering from depression being less likely to receive the necessary treatment,” says Debra L. Franko, Professor of Counseling and Applied Psychology. “This is clearly an area that needs to be investigated further.”
Dr. Franko and her colleagues suspect that the different ways black and white girls view their bodies may also contribute to the difference in depression rates among the two groups. Young Caucasian teenagers tend to be unhappy with their bodies and many show symptoms of depression as a result. As they get older, they become more satisfied with their shapes and sizes and the level of depression decreases. Conversely, most African-American girls accept their bodies both in their early teens and as they continue to mature, therefore the depression rate among them remains steady as they reach early adulthood.
The sample of Franko’s study was comprised of 2221 females (1146 African-American and 1075 Caucasian). The girls were participants in the decade-long National Growth and Health Study, conducted between 1987 and 1998.
The research was supported by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and by contracts and cooperative agreements from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health.