Currently, our aging population is living longer than any other generation due to improved medicine, stronger financial systems, and a larger emphasis on education and healthcare (Angel, 2009). Yet, literature shows that longevity is not a good indicator of successful aging, and we have to consider dimensions of health in cultural groups that are ignored but influence their aging. Consequently, mental health is a dimension that is severely overlooked in ethnic groups and it is critical that we consider positive mental health as a channel to assure successful aging. Every year, at least 50 million American adults suffer from mental illnesses. Furthermore, literature shows that depression has been identified as one of the most prevalent psychiatric diagnosis among the elderly, being linked to morbidity, disability, and suicide risk (Conner et. al, 2010; Liebowitz, et. al, 1997). Even more overwhelming, Black older adults suffer more psychological distress than their White counterparts due to their exposure and experiences with racism, discrimination, prejudice, poverty, and violence (Brown, 2003; Conner et. al, 2010; DHHS, 2001; Outlaw, 1993; Williams, Neighbors, & Jackson, 2003) and have fewer psychological, social, and financial resources than their White counterparts (Choi & Gonzales, 2005; Conner et. al, 2010). Even more disturbing, they are less likely to receive an appropriate diagnosis or treatment for depression, when compared to Whites. Prevalence estimates of depression among clinical samples of older Blacks range from 10% to 33% due to limited and varying research.
Therefore, we will focus on some of the challenges aging Blacks face that can lead to depression and unsuccessful aging by looking at the following: Negative Self-Perception in Social Circles, Negative Social Messaging, and heightened death awareness.
Seeing the words “reliably diagnosed”, already presents an issue because research show it is a very prevalent disease, especially among our elderly. Also, it says it can be treated by non-specialists as part of primary health care but it is important organizations such as WHO, be cautious in using the word non-specialists because there is no explanation on how this term applies to and the accuracy and usefulness of their treatments, which leads into our next point.
When we look on the literature search, we see a great disparity in research on depression among older Blacks.
If the research is insufficient, then the knowledge on how depression affects Blacks is very limited and this presents a great concern for not only researchers, but health care providers, policy makers, and especially the population itself.
Negative Self-Perception in Social Networks
Turning to some of the challenges presented in the aging Black population for depression is negative self-perception in social networks. Most research in this domain has discussed the cultural belief of Blacks elders concealing their mental health problems. However, masking...