Despite elevated risk profiles for depression among South Asian and Black Caribbean people in the UK, prevalences of late-life depressive symptoms across the UK's three major ethnic groups have not been well characterized.
Data were collected at baseline and 20-year follow-up from 632 European, 476 South Asian and 181 Black Caribbean men and women (aged 58–88 years), of a community-based cohort study from north-west London. The 10-item Geriatric Depression Scale was interviewer-administered during a clinic visit (depressive symptoms defined as a score of ⩾4 out of 10), with clinical data (adiposity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cognitive function) also collected. Sociodemographic, psychosocial, behavioural, disability, and medical history information was obtained by questionnaire.
Prevalence of depressive symptoms varied by ethnic group, affecting 9.7% of White European, 15.5% of South Asian, and 17.7% of Black Caribbean participants. Compared with White Europeans, South Asian and Black Caribbean participants were significantly more likely to have depressive symptoms (odds ratio 1.79, 95% confidence interval 1.24–2.58 and 1.80, 1.11–2.92, respectively). Adjustment for co-morbidities had most effect on the excess South Asian odds, and adjustment for socioeconomic position had most effect on the elevated Black Caribbean odds.
Higher prevalence of depressive symptoms observed among South Asian people were attenuated after adjustment for physical health, whereas the Black Caribbean increased prevalence was most explained by socioeconomic disadvantage. It is important to understand the reasons for these ethnic differences to identify opportunities for interventions to address inequalities.