Study Suggests Racial Disparity Persists in Mental Health Services

Based on data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey and the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, racial disparities in receipt of outpatient mental health services have continued to be large and have not shown improvement over a 15-year period. Researchers from Columbia University and Brown University estimated annual visit prevalence for three racial-ethnic groups—non-Hispanic whites, non-Hispanic blacks, and Hispanics—as the number of visits divided by the group’s U.S. population size. Analyses were stratified by diagnosis, physician type, patient characteristics, and year.

Total annual prevalence rates for mental-health-related physician visits were 197 visits per 1,000 population for non-Hispanic whites, 118 for non-Hispanic blacks, 114 for Hispanics, and 90 for non-Hispanic others. Non-Hispanic blacks were treated markedly less frequently than whites for obsessive-compulsive, generalized anxiety, attention-deficit/hyperactivity, personality, panic, and nicotine use disorders but more frequently for psychotic disorders. Hispanics were treated far less frequently than whites for bipolar I, impulse control, autism spectrum, personality, obsessive-compulsive, and nicotine use disorders but more frequently for drug use disorders.

For more information about mental health and minority groups, see the Psychiatric News article, “To Understand Mental Health Disparities, Look to R.I.C.E. not Race.”

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