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A critical review of research on the mental health status of older African-Americans

  • TERRY L. MILLS (a1) and CARLA D. A. EDWARDS (a2)

Abstract

This paper summarises current research on the mental health status of older African-Americans with a specific focus on late-life depression, one of the most common forms of mental disorder among older persons. Social gerontologists have brought to the forefront the need to consider the impact of historical eras, cohort location, and lifecourse development when studying various dimensions of the ageing process. Unfortunately, this type of theorising is still in its infancy, and has not been widely applied to the general population and all dimensions of health, let alone investigations into the mental health status of older African-Americans. Virtually none of the empirical studies we reviewed adequately address the historical, biographical, or structural factors related to the mental health status of older African-Americans. We suggest that to understand contemporary manifestations of racial presumptions, there must be an appreciation of the historical antecedents. African-Americans live with the corrosive effects of a legacy of slavery that presumed black inferiority. The identification of salient factors of risk and resilience among this population is critical to developing effective intervention and mental health maintenance programmes. By emphasising the socio-historical influences on the mental health of older African-Americans, we can develop a greater understanding of this population's mental health needs; thus paving the way for improved mental health services and a reduction in mental health disparities.

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Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Terry L. Mills, Ph.D., Department of Sociology, University of Florida, PO Box 117330, Gainesville, FL 32611-7330, USA. e-mail: tlmills@soc.ufl.edu

Keywords

A critical review of research on the mental health status of older African-Americans

  • TERRY L. MILLS (a1) and CARLA D. A. EDWARDS (a2)

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