Perceived Depression Stigma Among Latinos Can Hinder Care

Depressed patients who perceive disease-associated stigma more likely to miss check-ups, avoid medication
By Jeff Muise
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, April 2 (HealthDay News) -- Latinos who suffer from depression and who perceive a stigma associated with the condition are less likely to take medications, manage symptoms or show up for doctor appointments, according to a study in March/April issue of General Hospital Psychiatry.

William A. Vega, Ph.D., of the UCLA School of Medicine in Westwood, Calif., and colleagues screened 200 low-income, Spanish-speaking, Latino patients at primary care clinics for depression using Patient Health Questionnaires, and reviewed the patients' medical records. In particular, the investigators used a depression stigma checklist to elicit perceptions of stigma associated with depression (e.g., depressed people are dangerous, not trustworthy, not socially acceptable), and the impact of those perceptions on patients being able to successfully manage their own condition.

The researchers found that patients with the greatest perception of stigma were less likely to disclose their own depression diagnosis to friends and family members, were less likely to take depression medications (odds ratio, 0.78), were less likely to be able to manage their depression symptoms (odds ratio, 0.79), and were more likely to miss a doctor appointment (odds ratio, 1.44).

"Given the strong relationship between stigma and care of depression, primary care clinicians should be aware of and address stigma among their depressed Latino patients. The stigma checklist presented for treating Spanish-speaking Latino patients in primary care may be used to assess depressed patients for stigma to help inform clinical management of patients," the authors write.

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