Differences in depressive symptoms and related dysfunctions between Blacks and Whites: An empirical examination of current issues

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

First Committee Member

George J. Warheit, Committee Chair


The purpose of this research was to determine the relationships among race, socioeconomic status (SES), life crisis events (LCE), and depressive symptoms. Three specific aims guided this research. The first addressed a general epidemiologic question which asks whether there are significant differences in the prevalence of depressive symptoms and related dysfunctions between Blacks and Whites. The second examined whether these relationships are altered after SES factors are controlled, and analyzed with SES as in interaction term with race. The final objective was to explore the nature of racial differences in exposure and vulnerability to life crisis events as they relate to depression. An epidemiologic field survey (Whites = 1,648; Blacks = 450) was utilized to address the proposed research aims. Depression was measured by two scales: the Florida Health Study depression measure (FHS), and the Diagnostic Interview Schedule (DIS).Research findings indicated that while Blacks had significantly higher levels of FHS depressive symptoms on the FHS, these differences were eliminated once SES was controlled. No racial differences were found on the DIS depression scale.Blacks were found to be both significantly more exposed to and more vulnerable to the impact of life crisis events than Whites. Again, however, no statistically significant differences in exposure and vulnerability were found between these two racial groups when the data were controlled for SES. The role of socioeconomic factors in contributing to mental health is discussed. The author concludes that poverty is hazardous to one's psychological well-being. In addition, methodological issues associated with the conceptualization and operationalization of mental health constructs such as depression are explored.


Psychology, Clinical; Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies

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