Rethinking Healthcare

Doctors more likely to prescribe antidepressants to white people

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Physicians are 1.52 times more likely to prescribe antidepressants to white people than Latino people.

Depression can carry a stigma of being a privileged person's disease. That stigma not only hurts those treated for it, it may also be preventing other people from getting proper medication for depression.

A University of Michigan study found that physicians are 1.52 times more likely to prescribe antidepressants to their White patients than Latinos when the patients present the same depression symptoms, the Atlantic reports.

The UM researchers also found that doctors prescribe antidepressants more often to people with private insurance than those on Medicaid. White people were also more likely to be prescribed newer more expensive drugs.

The study says:

"Previous studies have shown that racial/ethnic health disparities may come from discrimination, differential insurance benefits, lower rates of participation in healthcare decision making, and differential attitudes toward use of antidepressant pharmacotherapy."

Co-author Hsien-Chang Lin tells The Atlantic's Samantha Leal that better guidelines are needed to ensure that physicians treat all mental health patients equally:

"We want the policy to motivate physicians to adhere to clinical practice guidelines better. Health disparities, especially with ethnic groups, can be helped with better access to healthcare and by having more insured people.

Of course, the problem is multi-fold. While physicians may be treating different groups of patients differently, internalized prejudices may motivate less privileged patients to advocate less aggressively for antidepressant prescriptions.

[via The Atlantic]

Photo: Carsten Schertzer/Flickr

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Audrey Quinn

Contributing Writer

Audrey Quinn is a Brooklyn-based multimedia journalist focused on health, tech and the economy. Her radio stories can be heard on Marketplace, Studio 360, PRI's The World, NPR's Latino USA, Deutsche Welle Radio and The Believer Magazine podcast. In addition to her work with CBS Interactive she produces multimedia science stories for online publications and is a teaching assistant at the Transom Story Workshop. Her investigative work has been awarded by the Fund for Investigative Journalism and The Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure