This study characterized racial-ethnic differences in treatment of veterans with chronic depression by examining antidepressant and psychotherapy use among non-Hispanic black, non-Hispanic white, Hispanic, Asian, and American Indian–Alaska Native (AI/AN) veterans.
Logistic regression models were estimated with data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical records for a sample of 62,095 chronically depressed patients. Data (2009–2010) were from the VA External Peer Review Program. Three primary outcome measures were used: receipt of adequate antidepressant therapy (≥80% medications on hand), receipt of adequate psychotherapy (at least six sessions in six months), and receipt of guideline-concordant treatment (either of these treatments).
Compared with whites, nearly all minority groups had lower odds of adequate antidepressant use and guideline-concordant care in unadjusted and adjusted models (antidepressant adjusted odds ratio [AOR] range=.53–.82, p<.05; guideline-concordant AOR range=.59–.83, p<.05). Although receipt of adequate psychotherapy was more common among veterans from minority groups in unadjusted analyses, differences between Hispanic, AI/AN, and white veterans were no longer significant after covariate adjustment. After adjustment for distance to the VA facility, the difference between black and white veterans was no longer significant.
A better understanding of how patient preferences and provider and system factors interact to generate differences in depression care is needed to improve care for patients from racial-ethnic minority groups. It will become increasingly important to differentiate between health service use patterns that stem from genuine differences in patient preferences and those that signify inequitable quality of depression care.