According to recent research from the University of Michigan School of Public Health (U-M SPH) Caucasians are 1.52 times more likely to be prescribed antidepressants than Hispanic and African-American patients being treated for major depressive disorders.
In a statement, Rajesh Balkrishnan, associate professor at U-M SPH, said: “This study confirmed previous findings that sociological factors, such as race and ethnicity, and patient health insurance status, influence physician prescribing behaviors. This is true in particular for major depressive disorder treatment."
Researchers examined data from 1993 to 2007 to try to understand the antidepressant prescribing patterns of physicians. They looked at two things: who received antidepressants, and what type of antidepressant was prescribed.
London-based GP and chair of council of the Royal College of General Practitioners, Dr Clare Gerada, told HuffPost Lifestyle: “This research could show a link between overdiagnosis of depression amongst those who have health insurance in America, as it’s more likely that white people people will have insurance.”
Dr Gerada concludes this could mean whites are being over “diagnosed’ and put “needlessly at risk” from the side effects of depression medications.
“There’s evidence that paying for treatment means patients are more likely to be given medication,” she says. “And what they are being ‘given’ might be an antidepressant.”
In light of recent allegations of government privatisation by stealth, Dr Gerada highlights the importance Nhs patient care remaining free from market forces.
“You need to worry if the market appears to be influencing prescribing behaviour. The figures are stark - and this could be further evidence that marketisation of health care distorts doctors' behaviour.”
American researcher Loretta Jones, executive director of Healthy African American Families, who has spent 30 years studying minority health policy, believes the problem is bigger than just payment, she told The Atlantic.
When looking at blacks' interactions with antidepressants, the problem is three-fold, says Jones, who has been focusing on depression in African-American communities since 2003.
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 centres 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, she explains.
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